While discussing the Nationals’ ascension from afterthought to possible playoff contender, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig touched on another issue of central importance to the Nationals.
The negotiations between the Nationals and Orioles owner Peter Angelos over the Nationals’ share of the revenue produced by MASN remain ongoing, Selig said.
“It’s a matter that is under discussion, under review by appropriate parties,” Selig said Monday in a phone conversation. “Nothing’s been determined by that discussion. I do understand the importance of television. It’s under very serious discussion.”
MLB has involved itself in the discussions “at the appropriate committee level,” Selig said.
Otherwise, the commissioner remained mum on the high-stakes talks, lining up with the other parties involved. Even high-ranking officials in the Nationals front office are not aware of where the negotiations stand at this point. But “it’s going to have a huge effect on us,” one said.
The Nationals are trying to increase their cut of the revenues produced by MASN, the regional sports network they own roughly 13 percent of compared to Angelos’s 87 percent share. Their contract entered a once-every-five-year “reset” period, allowing the Nationals to argue for a greater share of the profits, in line with what their rights fee could demand on an open market.
The Nationals earned $29 million from their television rights fees last year, and they are hoping to double or even triple that figure. To maximize their take, the Nationals hired a high-powered media consultant to argue for what constitutes fair-market value fees. The impact would directly affect their on-field product, allowing payroll to increase.
The money generated by television rights deals has skyrocketed across the sport, becoming centrally important to the financial health of franchises. The Rangers agreed to a $3 billion, 20-year deal with Fox in 2010. The Angels entered into an agreement that enabled them to sign Albert Pujols.
The Nationals, under the new collective bargaining agreement, will cease receiving funds in revenue sharing, making their television money all the more important.