Alan Rifkin, outside counsel for the Orioles and owner Peter Angelos, said Monday that reports of a possible MASN sale are innacurate.
"There has been no contact," he said. "There has been no offer. There has been no discussion of it. MASN is not for sale."
According to John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal, Fox and Comcast have had negotiations with Peter Angelos about acquiring his majority share of the television network and the rights to both Orioles and Nationals games.
Ourand's report indicates the idea of a sale is being pushed by Major League Baseball, which has tried to mediate a contentious contract dispute between the Orioles and Nationals since the summer. At issue is how much the Nationals will make per year for their broadcast rights, and the sides are $75 million apart. While Angelos and Rifkin say the original MASN contract -- which allows for renegotiation of the annual fee but also established parameters for what it should be -- should stand, the Nationals have argued that what they are scheduled to make is far below current market value.
"All the parties signed the contract," Rifkin said. "They did so with eyes wide open. Major League Baseball has the responsibility to make sure the contract will be enforced and effectuated."
MASN formed when MLB wanted to move the Montreal Expos to D.C. Angelos pointed out how much that would hurt his market and eventually leveraged his complaint into a remarkable deal. He owns most of the network, and his decreasing share will eventually bottom out at 67 percent.
I spoke with Ourand today, and he said the value of the network could easily be $1 billion.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers may end up receiving $6 billion in a 25-year broadcast deal with Fox. That's $240 million per year.
Since MASN's inception, rights fees for live sports have skyrocketed. In the DVR and on-demand age, sporting events are the best way for a television network to ensure advertisers that people might actually be watching the commercials.
Fox has already made a significant move to generate revenue from television customers in the huge Washington D.C./Baltimore market, though without having to lift a finger. It owns 49 percent of the Big Ten Network and handles the business operations of the channel that will soon be showing Maryland games.
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