MASN will televise O's games in 2007

Updated: April 21, 2005, 9:50 PM ET
Associated Press

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 Orioles games.

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 both teams.

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 third party.

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."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press