Washington Capitals, Mystics, Wizards Owner Goes All in on RSN; Streaming App With Exclusive Content Planned
Monumental Sports and Entertainment is apparently not concerned with the deterioration of the regional sports network (RSN) model. That’s according to a new report from Axios, which states the group is preparing to invest $20 million to overhaul NBC Sports Washington, which it acquired from Comcast in fall of 2022.
Monumental owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals, as well as the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the NBA’s Washington Wizards. It will use its RSN to broadcast games from all three of these teams, though it will not carry any contest from the NFL’s Washington Commanders. The channel’s broadcast deal with that franchise expires this April, and as of now there are no plans to renew.
As part of this $20 million investment, the network will be given a new name and new branding. Details on that rebrand will be made public later this summer, and the new channel/app will launch in fall of 2023. New linear programming will include alternative feeds, new lead-in shows for major contests, and more betting and wagering-themed programming.
The investment will also include a standalone streaming app for users in-market. This direct-to-consumer offering will offer livestreams of games, as well as exclusive studio content and special perks only for subscribers. There will also be enhanced sports betting integrations included in the new app.
With all the news lately about how much trouble RSNs are in, it might be surprising to see an ownership group bet so heavily on one of these networks. But since Monumental will own its own network outright, it is insulated from many of the troubles that are plaguing other RSNs, like acquiring more broadcast rights or trying to work out Byzantine contracts with national TV distributors. Monumental has one channel, with one dedicated market, and that’s it.
“Overleveraged operators are experiencing distress, but that should not be conflated with the incredibly strong and stable demand for local sports rights,” said Zach Leonsis, president of media and new enterprises at Monumental. “Live sports viewership continues to be on a growth trajectory and Monumental Sports believes that this is the right time to invest back into those live rights.”
Leonsis is quite right when he cites overleveraged operators in distress. Diamond Sports Group, which owns and operates 19 RSNs under the Bally Sports brand, is currently working through bankruptcy court proceedings, and has filed for Chapter 11 protections. Warner Bros. Discovery is leaving its RSNs behind altogether, and has informed teams covered by them that they have until the end of March to reclaim their broadcast rights, or the channels will simply undergo Chapter 7 liquidation.
Washington sports fans won’t have to worry about those issues, however. Starting this fall, they’ll be able to watch their favorite teams either on TV or via the new streaming app coming from Monumental Sports. NBC Sports Washington may not be around for much longer, but D.C.-area fans will still have access to all the local NHL, NBA and WNBA they could wish for.