NBC Sports Washington Set For Monumental Overhaul, Rachel Nichols Show

Washington, D.C., needs to get set for a Monumental overhaul of its TV-sports traditions.

In September, fans who once flocked to NBC Sports Washington will find they’ve landed at a new venue. Monumental Sports Network will soon serve as the area home of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, the G League’s Capital City Go-Go and the NBA 2K League’s Wizards District Gaming. All the properties are held by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, a company led by former AOL executive Ted Leonsis.

The company bought NBCUniversal’s 67% stake in the business last year, and will spend a chunk of 2023 putting its own stamp on operations.

“We think the value of our local rights is sacred,” says Zach Leonsis. president of media and new enterprises at Monumental, in an interview. “We want to be making our product better and better to meet the new standards for media distribution.”

The outlet’s new name seems like it would be easy to discovery. In fact, Monumental tested thousands of season ticket holders for the Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics ,as well as people who live outside the area but identify as fans of D.C sports. Nearly half of those taking part picked Monumental as the best name over five other options. The logo — a “Monumental M” — is meant to evoke the Washington Monument. The company will prepare fans for the changeover throughout the summer, with ads in The Washington Post and other local media.

The fate of so-called regional sports networks seems dire. Teams like the San Diego Padres and the Utah Jazz are making moves to take over production of their own broadcasts, and one big provider of local sports broadcasts, Diamond Sports Group, has filed for bankruptcy and has met with issues paying many of the teams for the rights deals it holds with them. Diamond was formed out of a group of regional-sports networks previously owned by Fox that had to be sold when that company sold the bulk of its entertainment assets to Walt Disney.

Monumental’s Leonsis believes the company is not traveling along a similar trajectory, because it owns the teams. “The size of our audiences aren’t decreasing. They are increasing, but they are distributed across multiple channels and avenues,” he says.

The company aims to rework its overall TV product, the executive says. “We want to rely a little bit less on third-party programs. We want to move away from the lunch-hour informercials,” he says. “We want our air to to really feel valuable and build excitement leading up to your game-day experience that evening.”

Look for more cameras and listen for coaches and players with mics on during game play, along with other enhancements. A series of new, original programs will include Rachel Nichols, the longtime sportscaster, who will lead a new interview show, “Rachel Nichols Project.” And Monumental is preparing to give fans access to 100 regular-season Wizards or Capital games with alternate feeds, made available on a new digital platform.

“The RSN business really should not be conflated with the value of the live rights, which is really what we acquired,” says Leonsis. In the future, he adds, fans should expect more access to players and coaches during telecasts, and more advances in personalization of their game experience. After all, he says, “the traditional broadcast is still the most valuable commodity.”

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