By Sally Fahey
The Orioles-controlled MASN will pay the Nationals about $100 million to resolve part of a legal dispute stretching for more than a decade, industry sources confirmed to Front Office Sports, bringing an element of peace into one of Major League Baseball’s thorniest issues.
The regional sports network’s payment will follow a series of rulings by MLB and several New York State courts, including as recently as April, affirming MASN owed the Nationals roughly that much in incremental rights fees for the 2012-16 seasons.
MASN had long argued the rulings were wrong and that making the payment would imperil network profitability. But the settlement allows the two sides to move on to determining fees still due for subsequent seasons.
The Nationals and MASN will now look to determine what is still due to the club for the 2017-21 seasons. A timeline to do that has not yet been finalized. But the Nationals and MLB are hopeful the agreement will ease the process in the future.
The creation of MASN — and the requirement to review rights fees payments due to the Nationals every five years — stemmed from a still-active MLB settlement with Orioles owner Peter Angelos following the Montreal Expos’ 2004 relocation to become the Nationals.
Because that original formation of MASN also required the Orioles and Nationals to receive equal rights fees, MASN will also pay about $100 million to the Orioles.
The Orioles own about 75% of MASN, and are set to own a majority share in perpetuity.
The settlement could also help revive the lagging sale process for the Nationals. Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis has expressed continued interest in adding to his sports empire.
The Washington Post initially reported news of the MASN settlement.