SBD/August 13, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Selig Tackles Several Issues Facing MLB, Says Teams Continue To Talk About MASN Dispute

The Nats-O's dispute over MASN's TV rights fees is now in New York Supreme Court
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig met with the press in Baltimore last night ahead of tomorrow's vote on his successor and addressed several issues currently facing the league. Selig said he and other league execs continue to have “constructive dialogue” with the Nationals and Orioles on the ongoing MASN local TV rights fee dispute, even with the issue now before the New York State Supreme Court. Selig refused to address his recent correspondence to the clubs in which he threatened sanctions to both if the matter reached the courts. But he said was not at all concerned regarding the financial viability of either club or the RSN. “We’ve tried very hard to resolve this, and we’ll continue to try,” Selig said (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Selig repeated his statement from the All-Star Game last month by saying that he "hopes the MASN dispute is resolved by January 2015, his final month in office." Selig: "It's an important goal before I step down. ... I like to avoid this situation but we'll just keep on working." Selig acknowledged that he has yet to meet with Orioles Owner Peter Angelos about the issue, but said that their relationship "is 'excellent' and will visit with him soon." Selig: "MASN is an inter-club dispute. When you're the commissioner, you hope these things don't happen. But you're going to have inter-club disputes" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/13).

ALL-STAR POSSIBILITIES IN THE BELTWAY: Selig called both Baltimore and DC “prime candidates” to play host to a future All-Star Game. The commissioner said that he intends to name several future host cities before he leaves office and intends to maintain the alternating AL/NL host format. To that end, Selig added there was no MLB constitutional provision preventing the league from placing the jewel event in Baltimore and DC in consecutive years if it chose to do so. “Baltimore is certainly a prime candidate. [DC] is also a very viable candidate. I try to alternate leagues, although some say I emphasize that too much, but I don’t think so. But certainly Baltimore is a prime candidate and so is Washington” (Fisher). Selig said that there is "no consideration in holding the All-Star Game hostage" from either the Orioles or the Nationals if the MASN dispute continues. Selig: "I like to take the All-Star Game where they're meaningful, where the franchises deserve them, where the fans deserve them. And if I let off-the-field stuff enter into it -- I never have, and I wouldn't do that here" (Baltimore SUN, 8/13).

NATIONAL TV RATINGS CONFOUNDING: Selig said he was pleased with teams' local-market TV ratings, which are up strongly for many clubs, but continue to be flummoxed by a slow, steady ebb in national-level ratings. “Everybody has a theory on the national ratings,” he said. “Believe me, if I had the answer, I’d give it to you. But I know that the interest in the sport is at an all-time high. Local ratings are spectacular. In a lot of markets, it’s the number one rated program this summer. You can’t do any better than that" (Fisher). However, ESPN's Keith Olbermann said MLB is "facing its worst crisis" since it cancelled the '94 World Series in that kids and a national television audience is "disappearing." Olbermann: "Not the regional television audience, not the one of which the individual teams are getting fat -- the national TV audience." The ratings for the various "Games of the Week" on all networks are "down a third" from '04-13, and this year "will likely prove disastrously worse." World Series ratings since '95 are down 54% because "not enough people want to watch a baseball game unless their team is playing in it." Olbermann: "If you can't sell the game to a national audience, not their game, but 'the game,' the networks will stop paying a lot of money for the game and that money, not the individual team rights, constitutes the majority of what gets spread around among the smaller markets" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 8/12).

EUROPEAN VACATION: Selig hinted that MLB intends to soon announce plans to place its first-ever regular-season games in Europe, a territory that has been of increasing interest in MLB’s international business development efforts. MLB in particular has been focused on the possibility of staging games in London or the Netherlands (Fisher).

LOOKING BACK ON THE ’94 STRIKE: Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the last games played in the ’94 season, and Selig again reminisced on the dark chapter in the sport’s history. “That whole period was painful, you bet. We had seven work stoppages before that. This was the eighth. And this was coming, no question,” he said. “In an interesting way, as tough as that was, it has led to 21, 22 years of labor peace. No one even thought that was possible. Sometimes in life, you have to go through certain things to get where we are. But it has led to record revenues, record attendance, record everything. So labor peace has been very important" (Fisher).
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