Selig: Nats' TV dispute still unresolved

Selig: Nats' TV dispute still unresolved
July 16, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Final All-Star Game bittersweet for Davey Johnson

NEW YORK — Though he continues to meet with both Nationals and Orioles ownership about their ongoing television rights dispute, MLB commissioner Bud Selig offered no evidence today that substantive progress has been made or that a resolution is expected anytime soon.

Speaking with members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America at his annual All-Star lunch, Selig expressed optimism that some arrangement will be worked out between the two dueling franchises but gave no concrete reason why he believes it will happen.

"I've spent a lot of time talking to both clubs, even very, very recently," Selig said. "And we continue to do that, and hope we'll have some type of resolution. We'll continue to work with that. It really is a difficult situation, but I'm always hopeful we can work out a resolution, and we are working on that right now."

The ongoing dispute stems from a provision in the Nationals' contract with MASN (the majority of which is owned by the Orioles) that allows them to renegotiate their annual rights fee every five years. The renegotiating period took place prior to the 2012 season, but the two sides were unable to agree to a monetary figure.

The Nationals, who in 2011 earned $29 million from the network, asked for about three times as much in rights fees. The Orioles offered tens of millions of dollars less than the Nats sought.

Unable to resolve the dispute on their own, the two clubs took their cases to a three-person committee from the commissioner's office. Selig initially set a June 1, 2012, deadline for a resolution, then pushed that deadline back to July 1, 2012. More than one year later, a deal still has not been struck.

Asked today if there has been any progress made in the last year, or whether the talks are at an impasse, Selig replied: "Well, let's put it this way: It's not an easy situation to resolve."

Selig, of course, was influential in the original negotiation of a deal that was designed to placate owner Peter Angelos in exchange for allowing the Montreal Expos to move to what had been classified as the Orioles' market in late 2004. The deal stipulated that the Orioles owned 90 percent of the newly formed TV network, with the Nationals' share slowly rising to as much as 33 percent over decades.

The Nationals, who were owned by MLB when the 2004 deal was struck, remain the sport's only franchise that doesn't have complete control over its own TV rights and can't negotiate directly with networks interested in airing its games, a significant hurdle for the organization. The Lerner family bought the club from MLB in 2006, inheriting the TV deal in the process.

This might not be the only dispute between the two geographic-rival franchises. Both the Orioles and Nationals would like to host All-Star Games in the near future, which could force Selig to make another difficult decision that won't sit well with at least one of the two franchises.

Next year's Midsummer Classic will be hosted by the Minnesota Twins, with the 2015 game recently awarded to the Cincinnati Reds. Selig said today the 2016 All-Star Game will be played in an AL city, with the 2017 game in an NL city. The Orioles, who hosted the game at Camden Yards in 1993, are bidding for the '16 game. Washington, which hasn't hosted the game since 1969 at RFK Stadium, is hopeful of landing the '17 game.

Asked if he would award back-to-back All-Star Games to cities so close to each other, Selig said only that "there are a lot of cities that want the All-Star Game, not just Washington and Baltimore."