The Nationals-Orioles MASN dispute has hit another turning point. According to Jeff Barker of The Baltimore Sun, an MLB arbitration panel has decided the Orioles must pay the Nationals tens of millions of dollars in broadcast rights fees from previous seasons.
To try and make sense of this never-ending legal battle, we've come up with some key dates you should know, starting of course at the beginning:
2005: The Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, became the Nationals ... and happened to enter what was the Orioles' exclusive broadcast territory. MASN was created to televise both teams games - but Baltimore got the better deal with a 90 percent supermajority stake in the network to start.
The agreement called for the Nationals’ equity to increase 1 percent annually, starting after the 2009 season, with a cap of 33 percent. The network’s rights payments to each team were set at $20 million apiece in 2005 and 2006, rising to $25 million in 2007, with $1 million annual increases through 2011.
After 2011, the Orioles and Nationals would negotiate a price for rights payments based on the value of the Nats at the time.
2012: The two sides cannot come to an agreement on broadcast rights fees, and the dispute goes before the Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee (RSDC).
2014: The RSDC rules the Nats are owed around $59 million annually in broadcast rights fees -- around $298 million in total -- from 2012 to 2016. Baltimore refuses to pay Washington and appeals the decision.
2017: The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division votes 3-2 to send the decision back to the RSDC. The case is reheard in November 2018.
2019: The MLB panel decides the Orioles owe the Nationals $100 million in additional rights fees for 2012 through 2016, sources tell The Sun's Barker. After MASN restates its financial results from those years, the Nats would receive between $60 and $70 million.
MASN could still appeal the decision, but that's where things stand now. If this decision holds, the Orioles will be paying the Nats a king's ransom in unpaid broadcasting rights fees.
But as this dispute has shown, it may be safer to assume there are still more twists to come.
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