The two biggest sports business stories in this town over the next few years will be the Nats’ relationship with MASN, and the Caps’ and Wizards’ relationship with Comcast SportsNet.
That latter regional sports network — previously Home Team Sports — is largely built around live game coverage of the Caps and Wizards, at least during the Redskins’ offseason. And in a world of steadily escalating sports rights fees, that relationship will have to change in some way.
“We need to generate more revenues,” Leonsis said on WTOP Wednesday morning, when asked about the new Monumental Network. “It’s pretty simple. We’re all in that business. We have to pay our employees more money, we have to continue to grow….And right now, we have a great relationship with Comcast SportsNet. Fantastic. They’re great, great partners. But they don’t pay us enough money.
“And you look around the league, and they and other cable companies have done new deals with teams,” Leonsis continued. “And they pay them a lot of money — in some places five or 10 times what we make. Well, that has an effect. It increases what the [salary] cap is, because more teams are making more money….It puts us at a competitive disadvantage. We don’t have the resources to be able to compete with some of these teams. So at some point, we have to either launch our own cable network (or get higher rights fees)….
“The Monumental Network puts us in practice,” Leonsis said. “We’ll build a studio [in the Verizon Center]. We have Monumental productions. We’re producing content. We’re shooting and editing video….We’re a media company, and I would expect that our future lies in having a network or ownership in a network, so that we can compete with New York. The Knicks and the Rangers own their own network. They’re a part of that.”
Then Leonsis was asked how long it will be until such a Monumental Network might show up in local homes.
“Well, right now, it’s available on the web,” Leonsis said. “Our deal with Comcast ends, I think, in four years or five years. We’ll see what the future holds. I’m not being disrespectful at all to Comcast. I mean that. They are wonderful people and grea,t great partners, and I’m very appreciative of the business. But the world’s changed.”
This issue is not going away, in other words. Far from it. Faaaarrrrrrrrrr from it.