Major League Baseball’s arbitration panel ruled in favor of the Washington Nationals in their longstanding, contentious dispute with the Baltimore Orioles over television rights fees from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, a person familiar with the situation confirmed. The person would not reveal the terms of the June 30 ruling that could begin a new, litigious chapter in the acrimonious, years-long squabble over profits from MASN.
The Wall Street Journal reports that only one major pay-TV distributor has agreed to carry SportsNet LA, the new L.A. Dodgers-owned cable channel. Other distributors say the carriage fee is simply too high. WSJ subscribers can read the story here.
Regional sports networks across the country are pressing Major League Baseball to get the rights to stream local games to portable devices. Currently, baseball fans can’t watch live games on their tablets or smartphones outside their home, and the RSNs fear they could be losing viewers who are moving more and more to watching video, entertainment and sports on mobile devices.
It’s been a big week for the New York Yankees. First the team won a bidding war for Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka. Then, on Friday, Fox announced that it will raise its stake in the team’s YES regional sports network to 80% from 49%. When the deal closes, expected by the end of March, YES Network will be consolidated into Fox’s financials.
All Nats fans living in the Washington, D.C., area, even those without access to the regional Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), will be able to catch some of the action. MASN and Gannett’s WUSA are partnering to simulcast 20 MASN-produced Nationals games on WUSA during the upcoming 2013 season. The slate of games on WUSA will begin with the Nats’ April 1 regular season and home opener against the Miami Marlins.
Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt on Thursday told investors that the operator’s regional sports network strategy is designed to minimize costs in the long haul. Speaking on TWC’s fourth quarter earnings call, Britt said the company’s 25-year pact to distribute SportsNet LA, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new RSN, was a forward-looking deal. “We do not pretend that these deals are inexpensive or cheap, and our sense is that if we’re going to carry these games, they’re going to be expensive when we get them,” Britt said. “So what we think we’ve done with these deals is to minimize and stabilize the cost over a long time period.”
News Corp.’s investment in the New York Yankees baseball channel YES Network illustrates the new normal in media: multibillion dollar deals, once reserved for rights to carry the Olympics or NFL football, now apply to regional sports channels as well.
Local sports have elbowed their way into the presidential election season, as both campaigns and the various PACs looking to sway voters have targeted regional sports networks in key battleground states.
Regional sports networks carrying NBA games would likely be forced to sacrifice some of the huge affiliate fees that drive their businesses if the NBA lockout causes lost games this season. The Madison Square Garden Co., which operates the MSG network carrying New York Knicks games, indicated last week that carriage deals with operators have clauses that kick in when a labor impasse wreaks havoc.
Regional sports networks are increasingly powerful and lucrative assets in a number of major sports deals.