How Ted Leonsis’ deal to purchase NBC Sports Washington could affect Mystics

Photo Credit: Nike

The 2022 season for the Washington Mystics came to an end after being eliminated by the Seattle Storm in two games of the first round of this year’s WNBA playoffs. 

While it is yet to be seen how the 2023 rendition of the Mystics will look like, there is one development that has already happened during the organization’s offseason that may have an effect on the team going forward. 

One has to look to the very top to see where said development came from. That is right – we are talking about Ted Leonsis, owner of Monumental Sports and Entertainment – the entity that owns the Mystics as well as the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the G-League’s Capital City Go-Go and Capital One Arena. 

Monumental Sports and Entertainment announced it would be purchasing the remaining 67% of NBC Sports Washington, a D.C. based regional sports channel whose viewership stretches from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. MSE already owned a minority stake in the network and with this deal it will purchase the remaining stake. 

It makes sense, after all. One must remember that the only teams that NBC Sports Washington has the rights to are the teams under the Monumental Sports and Entertainment umbrella – including the Mystics. The Washington Nationals of MLB are on another regional sports channel called MASN and that is a dubious arrangement where the team it shares the Mid-Atlantic market with – the Baltimore Orioles – own a majority of the channel. 

Once upon a time, NBC Sports Washington used to be Home Team Sports before it was bought out by Comcast and became Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. It was one of the two original Comcast SportsNets with the other being Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. 

As for the Mystics, their games are currently carried on Monumental Sports Network’s OTT channel – which simulcasts of games air on NBC Sports Washington. In addition – Mystics games are produced directly by Monumental as opposed to the WNBA’s in-house production staff. There are similar arrangements throughout the WNBA that include the New York Liberty with the YES Network, the Connecticut Sun with NESN and the Atlanta Dream, Minnesota Lynx, Dallas Wings and Phoenix Mercury with their respective regional Bally Sports Networks. 

The Los Angeles Sparks used to have its games produced by its regional sports partner – Spectrum SportsNet – but home Sparks games had in-house WNBA production this past season. In the case of YES, they also produce road Liberty contests with its own graphics and broadcasters.

For a Mystics fan, it would be natural to believe that a purchase of NBC Sports Washington by Monumental would automatically mean more Mystics content on a linear sports channel – such as the Mystics content that already airs via the OTT service. 

But there is one development in all of this that Mystics fans also need to keep in mind. 

Leonsis is not only attempting to purchase NBC Sports Washington. He is attempting to purchase the Nationals – and free them from that dubious MASN contract Orioles owner Peter Angelos had the Nats agree to as a condition of them moving ton our Nation’s Capital from Montreal. 

As much as we would hate to admit it, we would understand that in a scenario where the Mystics and Nationals were under the same umbrella and on the same channel that the men’s baseball team would preferential treatment (*major eyeroll*) over the women’s basketball team even though the women’s team has won a championship more recently than the men’s baseball team.

Also – has anyone seen the men’s baseball team lately? They are barely watchable inside their own stadium. At least the Mystics are back to being contenders. Nowadays, there are possibly more sports fans in the DMV that would rather want to go to DC Entertainment and Sports Arena in the Congress Heights neighborhood (heavily Black southeastern DC) than would go into Nationals Park which is basically in the heart of the city. One can see the U.S. Capitol building from Nats Park.

The Mystics would join the Liberty (YES-Yankees), the Sky (Marquee Sports Network-Cubs), the Sun (NESN-Red Sox) and the Bally Sports four (Dream-Braves, Lynx-Twins, Wings-Rangers, Mercury-Diamondbacks) as WNBA teams that would share a regional sports network with a MLB team. And while a Nationals acquisition would create another cross-promotional opportunity (as it has for the other aforementioned arrangements), it also stands as another way of highlighting the disparities between women’s and men’s sports coverage.

No matter how one slices it, this is unquestionably a bold move for Leonsis. It is one thing to purchase a new team, but to purchase one of the major teams in the market when that owner already owns three major teams, a NBA G-League team and an arena that two of those teams call home is – all puns intended – a Monumental development.

We will definitely keep track of all of the Monumental developments.