Baltimore Orioles: This one’s in the books for MASN

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In an almost shocking twist of fate, the Baltimore Orioles won what might be construed as their 82nd victory of 2015 yesterday. We finally got the long-awaited verdict on the MASN deal from the New York Supreme Court, and they ruled in favor of MASN. The Honorable Lawrence K. Marks ruled that the decision, which previously awarded $298 million to the O’s and Washington’s franchise (in TV rights backdated to 2011), must be vacated.

So what does this mean? First off keep in mind that the contract that was signed between the Orioles, Washington, and MASN reads that MASN owns the TV rights to both franchises in perpetuity. That means forever – and ever, and ever. (So long as MASN exists, that is.) It also stipulates that both franchises have to be paid the exact same amount for their broadcast rights. So with the decision being vacated, both franchises are in line to revert to getting $40 million annually from MASN for their TV rights.

How is this good news for the O’s, you might ask? Given that Peter Angelos owns the majority share of MASN (believed to be about 84%), the O’s benefit from MASN having that additional operating revenue much moreso than do the Washington Nationals. Furthermore if Washington got their way in terms of how much they annually got, bearing in mind that the Orioles would have had to get the same that ultimately would have bankrupted the network. While the Orioles and MASN are two separate entities, they are tied to the same person (Angelos).

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  • I wouldn’t say that this is over for good, however. The ruling was ordered vacated due to the specific fact that Washington’s lawyers were the same as those for MLB NY law firm Proskauer Rose). Basically that creates a conflict of interest in a way, and on that basis the judge ruled in MASN’s favor (quote courtesy of The Washington Post):

    "Had MLB, the arbitrators, the Nationals and/or Proskauer taken some reasonable steps to address petitioners’ concerns about the Nationals’ choice of counsel in the arbitration — or indeed any step at all — the Court might well have been compelled to uphold the arbitral award.-The Hon. Lawrence K. Marks"

    Judge Marks went onto suggest that the two sides should seek an independent arbitrator in the case moving forward. His Honor didn’t seem to find fault with Washington’s argument for getting what they claim they are due, however in effect that presumed opinion is irrelevent given the fact that he in theory stopped reading the case after finding fault with the choice of counsel.

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    So Washington might well appeal this decision (the the Supreme Court of the United States), among other options and so forth. However for the time being and for the foreseeable future, this is a big victory for MASN and thus for the O’s. While both franchises have access to MASN money because both ownership groups own stakes in the network, Angelos obviously owns much more as he is the majority owner.

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    I’ve kept an eye on this case obviously from the Orioles’ standpoint due to my job here at Birds Watcher, however also out of interest. And on that note it’ll certainly be interesting to see what – if anything – happens moving forward. But for the time being, chalk this up as a victory for MASN – and by extension, the Orioles.