Sports fans in the Baltimore-Washington corridor will have more access, more choice and more engagement regarding their entertainment experience beginning Oct. 13, with the rollout of an innovative distribution model of sports content.
Monumental Sports Network will begin offering access to hundreds of live sports events and original programming, plus add-on, real-life events and exclusive merchandise, as part of a subscription service that will deliver sports content on virtually every type of consumer device or appliance currently in use.
Most immediately, Monumental Sports Network will offer live streaming game action of the Washington Capitals' minor league franchises, the Hershey Bears (AHL) and the South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL). And in the future, there will be live games of the Washington Mystics (WNBA); the new Arena Football League entry, the Washington Valor; the National Pro Grid League DC Brawlers, and top high school and community events.
"We believe this is a first of its kind anywhere as a regional effort, in that we're talking about multiple sports, multiple teams, multiple leagues; but all of them have a home team touch," said Zach Leonsis, Monumental Sports Network vice president and general manager.
The announcement of the Monumental Sports Network subscription service accompanied the further news of a much closer relationship between parent company Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE) and CSN Mid-Atlantic, which is part of the NBC Sports Group. As part of the deal, each company becomes a minority equity owner in the other and obtains representation on each other's boards of directors, creating a significant sports media partnership. The agreement also extends CSN Mid-Atlantic's exclusive media rights for the Monumental-owned NHL Washington Capitals and NBA Washington Wizards for broadcast on conventional regional cable television.
However, of most interest to sports fans will be the so-called "over-the-top" distribution model of delivering sports content directly to consumers, who will be able to view that content on their smart phones, tablets, computers and televisions connected to Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast and MonumentalSportsNetwork.com
Annual subscriptions are available for $8.99 a month, and month-to-month subscriptions are $12.99 per month. For a limited time, those who subscribe month-to-month will get the first month for free. Sign-ups begin Oct. 13.
Leonsis said it's apparent sports fans who follow the four major sports leagues likely will continue to watch live games the traditional way, on cable TV, for the foreseeable future. However, the over-the-top delivery model that offers niche content plus real-life opportunities to engage with athletes, coaches and fellow fans, and the opportunity to snag exclusive merchandise and swag, will appeal to Millennials and Gen Z.
"Millennials are adverse to paying for things that they don't want, but they will pay for things that appeal to them," Leonsis said.
"Monumental Sports Network is an additive subscription product to cable viewing, and it appeals to all ages and consumption habits, because there's something for everyone."
Along with minor league hockey, women's basketball and arena football, some of the non-traditional offerings will include the grid league, which takes physical fitness and turns it into a competition, and the even less traditional United Social Sports, which specifically targets Millennials with contests ranging from ultimate Frisbee and dodgeball, to cornhole and shuffleboard.
Among the 80 hours of original content in the works is an interview show with former Duke basketball captain Reggie Love; a behind-the-scenes look at the building of the new Arena Football League team, the Washington Valor, and short-form features on the Capitals and Wizards.
To create greater intimacy and engagement with subscribers, there will be subscriber-only events, such as bowling with athletes and special game-watching gatherings with drink specials and photo ops for subscribers.
If all of this sounds like Monumental Sports Network is casting a wide net with its far-ranging content and associated offerings, well, that's exactly the point.
"We see ourselves as something of a petri dish," Leonsis said. "In a couple of years, I think we'll be surprised to look back and see what worked and what didn't work. And that's what makes this exciting."