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Orioles await decision on Nationals' request for rights fees increase from MASN

The Orioles and Nationals are awaiting a decision on how much more money Washington will receive in annual rights fees from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which televises both teams' games.

The decision from a Major League Baseball committee could come as soon as the next few weeks, according to an official familiar with the process.

The Nationals receive at least $29 million per year from MASN, said the official, who declined to be identified while the decision is pending. The team is seeking a rights fee increase based on the current state of the market.

The contract allows MASN's fees to be periodically reset so they don't get out of sync with market conditions. The "reset" comes as the Nationals have improved on the field this season. The rights fee market has proved lucrative for other clubs in the past few years.

Rights fees' arrangements were locked into an agreement that Orioles owner Peter Angelos negotiated with MLB before the Nationals arrived in Washington before the 2005 season.

MASN is owned primarily by the Orioles, with the Nationals having a minority stake that can grow to as much as 33 percent over the next several decades. Angelos said winning TV rights to both the Orioles and Nationals was critical to ensuring the long-term viability of his club.

MASN official Jim Cuddihy did not return calls seeking comment.

The rights fees "reset" process — which has included negotiations between Orioles and Nationals officials — is complicated.

According to the Sports Business Journal, there are parity clauses ensuring that "if the Nationals get a big increase from its reset period, the Orioles' rights fee automatically moves to that figure. That means MASN would have to pay both teams a bigger rights fee if the Nationals prevail."

The Journal said the Nationals have hired consultants to try to obtain a rights fee increase on par with what the Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres have recently received.

Nationals chief operating officer Andy Feffer and MLB declined comment.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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