WASHINGTON — The dispute between the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles over television rights fees, already years in at this point, is ongoing.
With millions of dollars at stake and, still, no end in sight, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred summarized the dispute with one word: “intractable.”
“It has been a very difficult dispute to get resolved,” Manfred said. “I have made numerous attempts myself to try to get to a resolution and have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there’s going to have to be some decision by the state court in New York before anything is going to move, in terms of either a resolution by lawsuit or a negotiated resolution.”
“I hate to admit that,” he said. “I really do, because I think it would be good for both clubs to get this put behind them. It really has been an unfortunately long dispute.”
Manfred then offered additional background on the origins of the complicated agreement.
“When Washington was awarded the franchise, that franchise was moving into a territory that belonged to Baltimore,” Manfred explained. “The way that [former] Commissioner [Bud] Selig resolved the compensation issues that ordinarily take place in that situation is he structured this RSN (regional sports network), MASN, that was going to hold the rights for both the Nationals and the Orioles.”
“So far, so good — the first five years were actually okay,” he said. “They had a set rights fee that was negotiated. The Nationals knew what that rights fee was when they bought the club.
“After the first five years, because that market is fluid, it changes — it, in recent years, thank God, has escalated dramatically — the arrangement was they were supposed to negotiate a new rights fee; or, if they could not, a committee of owners of other clubs would resolve that dispute.”
“They would pick a rights fee that was to be paid by MASN. That happened. They picked a rights fee. The Nationals were satisfied with that outcome,” he said. “Unfortunately, MASN and the Orioles were not — they thought the number was too high and they brought a lawsuit against baseball, because it’s our committee and the Nationals, trying to avoid paying the amount that that committee determined was due in owing.”