Nationals Get HUGE Legal Victory in TV Rights Dispute with Orioles

WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals earned a huge legal victory in their ongoing television rights dispute with the Baltimore Orioles.

A New York State appeals court ruled Thursday the Nationals are entitled to have the amount of rights fees its paid, for MASN to broadcast its games, to be determined by a committee of Major League Baseball owners and executives.

In the long-running dispute, MASN, which is super-majority owned — and controlled entirely — by the Baltimore Orioles, has argued against MLB’s Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee (RSDC) deciding on any unresolved fee disputes.

The regional sports network (RSN) broadcasts both Nationals and Orioles games, in accordance with a 2005 agreement entered when Major League Baseball moved the Montreal Expos to Washington, which at the time was considered Orioles territory.

On Thursday, the New York appeals court ruled MASN and the Orioles are bound by the contractual commitment they made to have rights fees disputes arbitrated by the RSDC — composed of three MLB team owners and executives appointed by the MLB Commissioner — which has previously ruled in favor of the Nationals.

This ruling allows the Nats to proceed to a new arbitration before the RSDC over rights fees for 2012-16, as well as an arbitration to determine the fees for the forthcoming five-year period of 2017-2021. The disputed amounts exceed more than $100 million for each of these five-year periods.

“The Nationals are gratified that the appeals court recognized the importance of enforcing contractual arbitration agreements,” said Stephen Neuwirth of Quinn Emanuel, who argued the appeal for the Nationals. “We look forward to finally having the rights fees determined in the forum the parties chose.”

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