Battle over TV Rights

Peter Angelos and Major League Baseball officials are still duking it out:

The control of broadcast rights to the Baltimore-Washington region is at the center of talks between Major League Baseball and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. The issue is holding up final agreement on the compensation package that baseball will give Angelos for the financial impact that the Nationals would have on his team.

Until the compensation package is agreed upon, the Nationals cannot make a deal with a local television outlet, forcing Nationals President Tony Tavares to lose valuable marketing and promotional opportunities.

“While we understand what a difficult issue this is, we are highly frustrated at the amount of time it has taken to bring this to a resolution,” Tavares said.

Angelos assumed the broadcast rights to the Baltimore-Washington region, extending from the Pennsylvania border to North Carolina and from West Virginia to Delaware, when he bought the Baltimore club for $173 million in 1993. After moving the Expos from Montreal to Washington last fall, baseball wants to recast the Orioles’ broadcast region to accommodate the Nationals.

If he were dealing with any other team, Angelos would seem to have the upper hand in this negotiation – but he’s not dealing with just another team here. He’s dealing with a team owned by Major League Baseball itself, and we might expect Big Daddy to throw his weight around to bring one of his children in line. But then again, Major League Baseball officials aren’t dealing with just any owner here:

Baseball has been reluctant to unilaterally redistrict the Orioles’ broadcast region, fearing a messy lawsuit by Angelos, who made a fortune as one of the nation’s most successful trial lawyers. Top baseball officials believe they would ultimately prevail in a suit by Angelos, but they are trying to avoid it nevertheless.

It isn’t about who wins or loses, it’s how much it will cost to win. And if you know how to play the game, you can drive those costs up. Angelos knows all this as well, and will use this to get as much as he can out of the negotiations.

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Author: Phil Miller

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