Comcast suit against O's is dismissed

Company is planning to appeal judge's decision



A Montgomery County circuit judge yesterday dismissed the remaining pieces of a Comcast SportsNet lawsuit against the Orioles that claimed the regional Mid-Atlantic Sports Network was created in violation of Comcast's contract with the club.

The Orioles own 90 percent of MASN, which is scheduled to produce and broadcast both Orioles and Washington Nationals games starting in 2007. Comcast said the club's plans for MASN violated its contractual right to match any offer for future Orioles broadcast rights.

Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson dismissed the core arguments in the case in July, but Comcast SportsNet filed an amended complaint last month. Thompson dismissed it as well.

"We continue to believe that the Baltimore Orioles have breached Comcast SportsNet's clear, contractual rights," Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said in a statement yesterday. "We intend to appeal today's decision and are confident we'll ultimately prevail."

With the lawsuit pending, the network's parent company, cable giant Comcast Corp., refused to carry Nationals games produced by MASN in any of its markets. Subscribers in the Washington area saw only games carried on Washington stations WTTG/Channel 5 and WDCA/Channel 20, and the few games nationally broadcast.

The Orioles and Comcast have not reached a deal for next season's games to be carried.

"All season long, Comcast used its ill-conceived lawsuit about the Orioles' television rights as an excuse for refusing to carry the Nationals' baseball games," Arnold Weiner, lead attorney for MASN, said in a statement. "Now that Comcast's lawsuit has once again been ruled baseless, we hope that Comcast will do the right thing for Washington baseball fans and carry the Nationals during the 2006 season."

Fitzpatrick said Comcast had no comment on any deal regarding Nationals games.

The Orioles control MASN under a compensation deal owner Peter G. Angelos negotiated when the Expos moved from Montreal into what he considered competing territory in Washington. The Nationals could eventually own as much as a third of the network.

In a separate legal matter, the Orioles have asked the Federal Communications Commission to order Comcast to carry the games, saying the cable provider is using its dominant market position to harm MASN.

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