Jim Williams: Fox Sports looking at buying MASN, according to Sports Business Journal

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According to a Sports Business Journal article, Fox Sports is taking a long look at either buying all or part of MASN -- the cable home of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles.

Last week, News Corp. -- the parent company of Fox Sports -- bought 49 percent of the Yankees-owned Yes Network. The company also has a $6 billion, 25-year offer for the rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers. So Fox is looking to buy regional cable networks or at least find partners.

Fox has had extensive conversations with MASN over the past six months, according to the Sports Business Journal's report. The conversations were initiated by Major League Baseball, who are in the middle of attempting to broker a new deal to increase Nationals broadcast rights with MASN. Both sides have been at an impasse since April.

The Orioles and MASN were given control of the Nationals' television rights as part of the compensation for moving the Montreal Expos to Washington in 2005. The Nationals were made "junior partners" in the deal which would give Washington 33 percent of the regional sports network. The Nationals currently own about 13 percent of MASN, and they are asking for a reported $100 million for their new rights adjustment that was factored into the contract.

The Orioles thus have offered the Nationals $34 million a year, and Major League Baseball enlisted a panel of representatives from the Pirates, Rays and Mets to set a fair market fee. There is still no resolution to the issue.

Both sides are not talking, but representatives of the Nationals and Orioles met with MLB brass last week in hopes of resolving their differences. There is hope that MLB can bring Fox and MASN back to the bargaining table.

What would MASN be worth on the open market?

Industry sources peg a sale at between $1 billion and $2 billion, but a sale of the network would also have to be approved by the Nationals' ownership. Washington would likely have no trouble with the sale because they would likely be able to strike a new long-term deal.

A sale would also put Fox Sports in direct competition with Comcast for viewers in the Mid-Atlantic, making for a pretty interesting battle.

Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.

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Jim Williams

Sports Columnist
The Washington Examiner