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Court releases MASN decision showing Orioles-controlled network owes Nationals tens of millions

A New York court on Tuesday released a redacted version of a Major League Baseball panel’s decision ordering the Orioles-controlled television network to pay the Washington Nationals tens of millions of dollars more in broadcast rights fees.

Also filed with the New York Supreme Court was the official notice that the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network — which is super-majority-owned by the Orioles but broadcasts both teams’ games — plans to appeal.

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The Baltimore Sun reported May 3 that the decision — issued by an arbitration panel composed of three MLB team officials — awarded the Nationals nearly $100 million, or about $20 million a year, in additional rights fees for 2012 through 2016. The decision was sealed by the court until Tuesday.

The 48-page decision was released with some financial figures redacted. Among those were profits distributions paid by MASN to the two clubs.

Not redacted were the broadcast rights fees amounts the Nationals were awarded for the five years — an average of $59.3 million per year. That is about $20 million more per year than the Nationals actually received.

Even if the decision was not appealed, the Nationals would not receive the whole $100 million.

That’s because MASN would have been required to restate its financial results for those five years, reducing its profit to pay the higher TV rights fees. The more money MASN pays in rights fees, the less it has available for profits.

After those and other adjustments are made, the Nationals would net somewhere between $60 million and $70 million from the decision, according to people familiar with the case.

The panel’s decision was signed by three team executives — Mark Attanasio of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kevin Mather of the Seattle Mariners and Mark Shapiro of the Toronto Blue Jays

The Sun, citing a court document, reported May 8 that the Orioles intended to appeal and to argue that Major League Baseball had a conflict of interest based at least partly on a loan the league made to the Nationals in 2013. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has called the $25 million advance “fully justified.”

The rights fees dispute dates to 2012, when the Orioles and Nationals could not agree on TV rights fees, and the dispute eventually ended up in the courts.

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