BALTIMORE -- Comcast SportsNet sued the Baltimore Orioles
and the new Mid-Atlantic Sports Network on Thursday over television
rights to Orioles games.
In a suit filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville,
Comcast asks that the Orioles, MASN and Major League Baseball be
prevented from negotiating or licensing local pay TV rights to
The Orioles and MLB agreed last month on a deal that will allow
games involving the new Washington Nationals to be televised.
The Orioles and Nationals formed MASN, a joint venture backed by
baseball, to allow fans in the Baltimore-Washington market to watch
Comcast SportsNet has local pay television rights to Orioles
games through the 2006 season, according to the suit. The agreement
also gives Comcast exclusive rights to negotiate an extension with
the Orioles and the right to match any agreement reached with a
The Orioles and baseball created MASN, a regional sports
television network, to broadcast Nationals games this season and
Orioles games starting in 2007, the suit says.
The suit says the Orioles have breached their contract with
Comcast. It also seeks unspecified compensatory damages.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos had fought the Montreal Expos' move
to Washington, saying it would have a "profound adverse impact"
on his team.
The right to televise the games had been the subject of almost
daily, drawn-out negotiations between baseball and Angelos.
"Comcast has been offered the opportunity to distribute the
Nationals' games," MASN said in a statement late Thursday.
"Comcast has not accepted that offer but has outrageously demanded
an ownership interest in MASN and has responded to our offer by
filing a lawsuit against the Orioles, purposely designed to inflame
the Washington fans."
Earlier Thursday Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer,
said. "We have not yet had a chance to review the pleadings and
cannot comment on the substance of the claims, but we are obviously
disappointed by the lawsuit," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief
operating officer, said Thursday. "There have been discussions
among Comcast, the Orioles and MASN.
"While we are hopeful those discussions can lead to a quick
resolution of the issues among them, nothing in the litigation has
any impact on the current television schedule of the Nationals or
rights fees being paid to the Nationals."
The Orioles had no immediate comment Thursday night.
Nationals president Tony Tavares, who didn't know about the suit
until he was asked about it by an Associated Press reporter, said
Thursday, "I'm surprised that someone didn't give us the courtesy
of a contact to let us know that this was coming. Other than that,
I just say my comment is this is disappointing. ... I have friends
in these companies, and the action is disappointing."