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The Nationals, Orioles are having a dispute about local TV revenue

Apr 19, 2012, 12:32 PM EDT

old TV

As we’ve seen recently, local TV revenue is the sweetest plum for ballclubs these days. If you’re up for a new TV deal right now, you’re rolling in dough.

But what if you’re not? What if, like the Nationals and Orioles, you’re sharing one?  Then you run into the sort of thing Ken Rosenthal is reporting here:

Now, according to sources, a panel of baseball officials will decide what the two teams could not resolve in negotiations — the annual rights fee that the Nationals will receive from MASN.

The matter went to arbitration after talks between the Orioles and Nationals sputtered. While there is no known deadline for a decision, the panel is meeting regularly due to the urgency of the situation, sources say.

The problem, as Rosenthal reports, is that the fee the two teams share from MASN is to be re-set at market rates every five years. What market rates are right now is up for debate. And given that the Orioles have a way bigger piece of MASN than the Nats do, you can understand that they might have a much different opinion of exactly what those rates are.

Get used to this, folks. Not the sharing thing so much — it’s not that common — but the notion of teams going to war with someone, somewhere over just how much it’s worth to them to allow a network to broadcast their games.

  1. randomdigits - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    Shame it is going to arbitration and not court. I would love to see the MASN books cracked open for the world to see.

    • boomerdt - Apr 19, 2012 at 4:17 PM

      Why? it’s not supposed to be an even split…… The DC TV market belonged to the O’s before the Expos became the Nationals. Thus the O’s had to sign off on the team being moved to DC. To sweeten the deal the TV rights were given to the O’s with partial payback to the Nats….. been this way since day 1. If you’re the minority you will always argue you’re worth more. I don’t blame the Nats for trying… but I doubt they get much (if anything) more than they do now. MASN is one of the lowest viewed Baseball networks out there (I think it’s 27th).

      • randomdigits - Apr 19, 2012 at 5:41 PM

        Difference between ownership rights and broadcasting fees. Nats are trying to increase the later which is allowable every five years under the agreement between the two teams.

  2. atworkident - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Surprise, surprise Rosenthal and the Orioles again.

    He shouldn’t be so bitter.

  3. natstowngreg - Apr 19, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Rosenthal has it right — it probably was inevitable. Craig has it right — this is an unusual situation, with two MLB teams on one cable network.

    When they bought the Washington franchise, the Lerners were stuck with a lousy TV deal. The deal will never be really fair, as long as they have not more than a one-third stake. This is their opportunity to make the deal a bit fairer, at a time when their team’s improved play should lead to more TV revenue.

  4. dowhatifeellike - Apr 19, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    MASN only have themselves to blame. If both teams were playing at the same time, the Nats would get MASN1(HD) and the O’s would get MASN2(SD until last year). You can’t give one team the spotlight and then say they deserve less of the pie than the team on the back burner.

    • dugly2ugly - Apr 19, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      This is not true. MASN has been very careful over the years to give the teams the same number of games on MASN1 when they play at the same time so they can avoid being accused of playing favorites. Usually, it’s based on who the opponents are (e.g. if the O’s are playing the Yankees and the Nats are playing the Padres the O’s series will get MASN1 and Nats on MASN2). If anything, the argument is usually that the O’s get preferential treatment, mainly based on the Baltimore focused ads and programming when games are not on.

      I think there is a lot of confusion about what’s being discussed. This is not about % of ownership in the station – Angelos/the Orioles will always have the bigger chunk and that is not subject to change. My understanding is that it’s more or less what the station which is owned by both teams is required to pay to the Nats for broadcast rights.

      I’m an O’s fan and am not sure how I feel about this. Part of me wants the Nats to get more because logic would dictate it would then force the O’s rights fees to go up rather than allow Angelos to hide money under the MASN umbrella. However, Angelos is not known for being logical when it comes to doing what’s right for the team.

      Also, logic would lead you to think that the O’s should deserve a higher fee because, when you take into consideration the entire broadcast area, the O’s have far more viewers than the Nats. I haven’t seen any ratings for this year yet, but in years past, almost nobody in the Baltimore area watches Nats games, but it hasn’t been uncommon for the O’s to have just as good, if not better, ratings than the Nats in homes in the DC metro area.

  5. Loose Changeup - Apr 19, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Angelos will lawyer his way through this meeting with ease. Hopefully, after he increases the value of the team, he sees fit to sell the team.

  6. chill1184 - Apr 19, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Granted such an idea is unlikely perhaps its time for the Nationals to get their own station a Washington sports channel. Maybe Lerner can convince the owners of the Capitals, Wizards and Redskins that it’s time for a network that brings Washington sports to the spot light instead of sharing with Baltimore. Again very unlikely but it couldn’t hurt to throw an idea around.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 19, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      Well the Redskins are always on national TV, but Ted Leonsis owns both the Wizards and Capitals, making it that much easier to bring three teams together for a RSN.

    • randomdigits - Apr 19, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      MLB won’t let them out from the MASN agreement. It was a conditional of ownership.

  7. boomerdt - Apr 19, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    The only thing the Orioles have to do is remind MLB that the only reason the Nationals exist is because the O’s allowed it (for the majority of the Nationals TV rights). Nats can argue all they want. Everyone knew what this meant from day 1.

  8. Old Gator - Apr 19, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Awww, why not just let Anton Chigurh decide it with a coin toss?

  9. simon94022 - Apr 19, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    The Orioles never “owned” the TV rights to the Washington market. It was assigned to them by the MLB Executive Committee and under MLB rules could be taken away at any time without their consent or even an owners vote.

    The Nats owed the Orioles absolutely nothing when they baseball came back to DC, but the Orioles received the MASN rights because of Bud Selig’s determination to never leave an owner disgruntled.

    The Baltimore claims on the Washington market were beyond ridiculous. There are more Yankee fans in DC than Oriole fans, and nobody in Virginia thinks of Baltimore as “local.”. MASN should be junked, and the Orioles should figure out some way to generate revenue in their own market.

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