Orioles beat Nationals in baseball TV rights dispute: NY judge

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 04, 2015 5:41 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Baltimore Orioles persuaded a New York state judge to throw out an arbitration panel's ruling that the Washington Nationals deserved millions of dollars of additional fees for broadcasting their baseball games on a network controlled by the Orioles.

In a decision on Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Marks in Manhattan overturned a June 2014 ruling by a Major League Baseball panel that the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network should pay the Nationals about $60 million a year, rather than $40 million.

MASN had obtained broadcast rights to Nationals games after Orioles owner Peter Angelos agreed to let the Nationals relocate from Montreal, where they were known as the Expos, starting with the 2005 season.

The Washington, D.C. area had been considered part of the Orioles' market since the former Washington Senators relocated after the 1971 season and became the Texas Rangers.

But the Orioles and Nationals in 2012 were unable to agree on rights fees, prompting the arbitration and subsequent litigation.

In ruling for MASN, Marks pointed to evidence that the arbitration panel might have appeared biased toward the Nationals.

He noted concerns raised by the Orioles that the law firm Proskauer Rose represented the Nationals, despite concurrently representing Major League Baseball and representatives of teams that made up the arbitration panel.

"MASN and the Orioles have established that their well-documented concerns fell entirely on deaf ears," he wrote.

Marks suggested that the parties find a neutral arbitrator to resolve their differences.

A Nationals spokeswoman said the team is "assessing" Marks' decision.

The Orioles welcomed the decision, after an arbitration that lacked "fundamental fairness," its lawyer Arnold Weiner said. "We are hopeful that this fairness will be achieved in a future and independent process."

Major League Baseball said it is reviewing the decision. Proskauer Rose was not a defendant in the case.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington, D.C.)