- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy yesterday vowed the Washington Nationals will be on local television in time for the April 4 season opener, despite the lack of a deal with the Baltimore Orioles to govern the sharing of the television territories of both clubs.

DuPuy and Orioles owner Peter Angelos have tried for six months to reach a compensation deal in which the Orioles would be protected financially from the arrival of the Nationals from Montreal. Central to those talks is the creation of a regional sports network airing both teams, and at least at the outset, controlled primarily by the Orioles.

But no deal has been signed, in part because Angelos continues to insist he owns territorial rights to a broad TV market stretching from central Pennsylvania to North Carolina, with the asset forming a key part of his $173 million purchase of the Orioles in 1993.

MLB, conversely, argues TV territorial rights remain the property of baseball and are granted on an operating basis to teams at the discretion of MLB’s executive council, of which Angelos is one of eight owner members. MLB executives are also trying to create a framework in which both the Orioles and Nationals have widespread access to TVs in homes in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Without an agreement, the Nationals have been unable to conduct any meaningful preparations to put its games on local TV, such as hiring announcers and production staff and selling advertising, much to the frustration of team executives. Local fans have also chafed at lack of clarity on the Nationals’ TV future with Opening Day now just 17 days away.

“The Nationals games will be on TV, without question,” DuPuy said. “That I am not worried about.”

DuPuy, however, declined to specify how getting the Nationals on TV will happen if a deal with Angelos is not reached. He has said for weeks an agreement was within days of completion, only to see those optimistic predictions repeatedly turn false. DuPuy’s comments suggest a contingency plan of some sort has been developed.

DuPuy also declined to comment substantively to a recent newspaper ad taken out by the Orioles, in which the team claims “exclusive rights” to the Mid-Atlantic TV territory and offers to put the Nationals on “our regional sports network.” While the ad sought to lay out “the facts” of the dispute, reaction in the Washington area to Angelos’ latest overture has been almost uniformly hostile, as many local fans have tired of being talked down to by Angelos.

“Peter expressed his view,” DuPuy said.

Industry sources said MLB executives believe they are under no real or legal obligation to placate Angelos, who is also being offered annual guarantees to his local revenues and future resale value for the Orioles. But despite fast-growing owner frustration within baseball, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig continues to seek a peaceful resolution with Angelos that does not involve a lawsuit that could prove embarrassing and problematic to all involved.

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