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The Baltimore-Washington franchise war

There's good information in this Washington Times story on the fight to put a team in DC:

The most heated battle in this Baltimore-Washington war, however, has been within the research community. Barely a year has gone by without a new study aiming to document the level of support for the Orioles in the Washington area or predict the impact a team placed in the District or Northern Virginia would have on the Baltimore club.

The Orioles say they derive at least 25 percent of their attendance and corporate support from greater Washington. The team operates a retail shop at Farragut Square and regularly conducts aggressive marketing efforts in and around Washington. The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority three years ago challenged that view, releasing a study that estimated that the Orioles derive 13 percent of their attendance from greater Washington and just 5 percent from the District and Northern Virginia.

An update of that study from Kagan Media Appraisals last fall projected that rather than losing crucial local TV revenue if a team were placed in Washington, the Orioles instead would gain a healthy increase of 4 to 6 percent per year.

That projected increase is predicated on the arrival of another regional sports network (RSN) to compete against Comcast SportsNet should Washington get a baseball team and a vigorous battle for the distribution rights of every local pro team.

Already, Comcast SportsNet faces a difficult juggling act each spring with its live coverage of the games of the Orioles, Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards. Comcast is forced to rely heavily on over-the-air stations such as WBDC-TV (Channel 50) to meet demand.

"There's definitely room in the Washington-Baltimore corridor for another RSN," said John Mansell, analyst with Kagan Media Appraisals. "Most of your other major markets have two, and in many cases, three such networks. If Fox Sports Net didn't step in and get involved in such an effort, I'm sure somebody else would."

A study conducted last year by Williams' cabinet similarly found a majority of District-based businesses holding seats at Camden Yards would either maintain or increase their spending with the Orioles should Washington get a team.

But for all the number-crunching, the only opinions that truly matter are those of MLB commissioner Bud Selig and the members of the relocation committee.

It is interesting to note that the NFL lost the "Raiders' Case" - when they voted to stop Al Davis from moving his team from Oakland to Los Angeles - for the very reasons cited by the Orioles. The court viewed the actions of the League as protecting the Rams from competition.

From an economist's perspective, I'd argue that approximating the free entry outcome would be the best move for fans. Free entry would surely yield multiple teams in areas as large as Baltimore and Washington. The soccer leagues in England provide evidence on entry and team location. In the Premier League, five of the twenty teams are located in London. Three more are doing well in the Nationwide League and could earn promotion to the top level for next season. What is most appealing to me about the English system, however, is that team relocation is a rare event.