Comcast-Orioles Suit Thrown Out - Broadcasting & Cable

Comcast-Orioles Suit Thrown Out

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A judge Wednesday dismissed Comcast's suit against the Baltimore Orioles over the baseball team's startup of a regional sports network in the Washington and Baltimore markets.

Orioles games currently air on Comcast SportsNet, but the team plans to move the games to its own channel MASN, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, in 2007. Comcast sued, claiming its current contract gives it the right of first refusal, a right to match any other offer. But the Orioles counter that right only covers bids from "third" parties. Since MASN is 90% owned by the team, the network is not a third party.

The dismissal does not immediately affect another part of the dispute, Comcast's refusal to carry MASN's coverage of Washington Nationals games.

Comcast had bid on the rights for the Nationals -- the relocated Montreal Expos -- but lost out to MASN. Comcast has, in turn, refused to carry the network on cable systems serving nearly two million subscribers in the network's territory. The Orioles have turned to the FCC for help and are trying to make the dispute an issue in regulators' review of Comcast's planned purchase of parts of Adelphia Communications.

In a statement, Comcast Executive Vice President David  Cohen said: "We are disappointed in the judge's decision today. He has invited us to amend the complaint and we will promptly decide whether we will amend or appeal."We remain fully confident in our legal position and believe that it will be vindicated upon further review.As we have said, we have no plans to carry MASN in part because we believe that it is a network operating illegally and in breach of contract.”

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