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Monumental Sports Network Officially Launches

“We will do more with our live rights than ever before.”

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Monumental Sports Network
Courtesy: Monumental Sports and Entertainment

One year after Monumental Sports and Entertainment reached a transition services agreement with NBC Sports, a pivotal transformation has taken place. Monumental Sports Network officially took the air on Wednesday morning, completing a rebrand associated with an ownership change to the Washington, D.C.-based regional sports network. Programming began with the premiere of Hometown with Rachel Nichols, a new show that started with an interview featuring Monumental Sports and Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Ted Leonsis. Joining Leonsis and Nichols in the interview was Zach Leonsis, the company’s president of media and new enterprises, commencing a new era of local sports content.

Programming on the network will include live game broadcasts of the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals and Washington Mystics, along with original shows tailored towards sports fans. The network is utilizing a new logo designed by brand agency HZ and will also feature a new weekend show, Beltway Football, hosted by 106.7 The Fan personality JP Finlay and journalist Mitch Tischler. Other new programming includes weekly behind-the-scenes series for the Capitals and Wizards, hosted by Alexa Landestoy and Wes Hall, respectively. Nichols’ program will air every Thursday at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST and formerly premiere in October, featuring local athletes and leaders such as Tom Wilson, Kyle Kuzma and Wes Unseld Jr.

“Since acquiring NBC Sports Washington one year ago to the day, we have spent every day since building what we believe will be the best local media experience for the greatest fans in all of sports,” Zach Leonsis said in a statement. “Our fans deserve the best experience possible, so we challenged ourselves to push every standard and deliver an extraordinary media platform. We’re excited to begin the network’s transformation this month with additional plans to unveil several significant upgrades throughout the course of the Capitals and Wizards regular seasons.”

Coverage of Capitals preseason hockey starts the new programming lineup and will feature the familiar, Emmy award-winning on-air team of Joe Benianti, Craig Laughlin, Alexa Landestoy and Alan May. The opener against the Buffalo Sabres takes place this Sunday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST.

Users have the ability to switch between camera angles and personalize their feeds through a new digital platform. Furthermore, sports data and betting analytics are also being implemented into the vertical and will also have a portfolio of original shows. The application is available to download on iOS, Android, Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV and an upgrade for authenticated television viewers.

In a thread on X, formerly known as Twitter, Zach Leonsis acknowledged that most of Monumental Sports Network is operating independently from Comcast, but that efforts are still in place to completely move over all services. The company is in the process of constructing new production facilities, developing new features and building new offices.The new studio will be adjacent to Capital One Arena at Gallery Place and will feature two studios, two insert studios and five control rooms that allow for simultaneous production of live events.

“While the local media ecosystem continues to evolve, we seek to build the exemplar local media platform in all of sports,” Leonsis said. “The value of live sports rights continues to grow, which is why we are so confident in making these significant investments back into our local rights. We will do more with our live rights than ever before, upgrading the existing live experience and producing more programming to the benefit of our fans and business partners.”

The network will be engaging its first paid media campaign that will be disseminated on print, online and out-of-home boards in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia regions. Fans can also sign up for a digital newsletter that will be distributed three times per week complete with the latest programming and digital content from the network’s team.

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NBA Finals Game 5 Averages 12.2 Million Viewers on ABC

‘Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals averaged 12.2 million viewers on ABC while also attaining the largest share of audience among People 18-34.”

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Graphic for the NBA Finals
Courtesy: National Basketball Association

The Boston Celtics secured their 18th NBA Championship with a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. Boston now has the most championships in the history of the NBA. Game 5 was especially a hit on ABC television as the game broadcast averaged 12.22 million viewers. That represented the most-watched game of the NBA Finals. Viewership of the matchup peaked at 13.28 million viewers on the night and also set a record for the largest share of audience within the People 18-34 demographic ever.

Total viewership of the NBA Finals on ABC averaged 11.315 million viewers across the five-game series, according to Anthony Crupi of Sportico in a post on X. The NBA Finals matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat also went five games last year and averaged 13.08 million viewers. The NBA Countdown program, which featured host Malika Andrews and analysts Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon and Bob Myers, along with guest analysts Josh Hart (games 1-2), Paul George (games 3-4) and Julius Randle (Game 5) averaged 4.02 million viewers through the series.

The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) is entering its final season within its existing media rights agreement with the National Basketball Association. The league is reportedly formalizing new media rights contracts with Disney, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video with a collective value of $76 billion over the term of the deal.

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Final Round of U.S. Open Averages 5.9 Million Viewers on NBC, Peacock

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NBC Golf Logo
(Illustration) | NBC Golf Logo – Courtesy: NBCUniversal

The final round between Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy during the 124th U.S. Open from Pinehurst Resort and Country Club highlighted Sunday at the golf tournament in which the network attained a total audience delivery of 5.9 million viewers on NBC and Peacock. The seven-hour window ranks as the most-watched East Coast final round of the event since 2013 and is up 9% over the last U.S. Open to be held on the East Coast from Brookline, according to data from Nielsen Media Research and Adobe Analytics.

Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch reported that the presentation had a 2.8 rating and that Nielsen measurements of the consumption equated to an average of 5.55 million viewers. Ratings were down by 11% from the final round of the U.S. Open last year from the Los Angeles Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif.

Viewership of the competition peaked at 11.4 million viewers from 6:15 to 6:30 p.m. EST and 11.3 million viewers from 6:30 to 6:45 p.m. EST. When excluding streaming-based viewership, the audiences peaked at 10.8 million and 10.7 million viewers, respectively, during those same aforementioned quarter hours. The total peak audience of 11.4 million viewers is the highest peak audience for any U.S. Open competition since 2015. DeChambeau ended up defeating McIlroy by one shot, highlighted by his emerging out of a bunker for par on the 18th hole of Pinehurst course No. 2.

Primary broadcast coverage of the U.S. Open garnered a total audience delivery of 3.1 million viewers, which is up 13% from the 2022 iteration of the event. Moreover, it exceeds the previous six U.S. Open events and is now the most-watched East Coast U.S. Open since 2013. The broadcast was also the most-streamed golf event on record for NBC Sports, the second time this record was broken during the tournament following first-round coverage on Thursday. Overall consumption of the event was up 17% year-over-year across all feeds.

Coverage of the U.S. Open as a whole on NBC averaged 3.1 million viewers, which is up 13% compared to the previous year. Additionally, 2.89 million viewers within the aggregate figure watched the tournament on NBC, according to data from Nielsen Media Research and Adobe Analytics.

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Venu Sports Announces Founding Leadership Team

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Venu Sports Leadership Team
Courtesy: Venu Sports

Venu Sports, the new joint streaming venture from ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, has announced the members of its founding leadership team that will report to Pete Distad, the chief executive officer of the entity. The team will be based in New York and Los Angeles and features executives with vast experiences in entertainment, media, technology, sports and sports betting companies.

Brian Borkowski has been named the chief marketing officer for Venu Sports and will be responsible for marketing, branding and growth strategies to help the brand launch and grow. Borkowski previously worked at FanDuel where he was the senior vice president of marketing for the company as it continued its expansion. Additionally, he has held various leadership roles with Hulu, including vice president of media and acquisition, along with head of subscriber acquisition. Over the years, he worked as the chief marketing officer of analytics firm Verikai and also had marketing leadership roles with Neilson Financial Services and Farmers Insurance.

Jessica Casano-Antonellis will serve as the senior vice president and head of communications for Venu Sports. Casano-Antonellis previously led communications at SiriusXM and also worked as the vice president of communications for Disney+ and Hulu at The Walt Disney Company. Among her responsibilities were overseeing communications initiatives for streaming propositions, including launching and rolling out Disney’s flagship streaming service.

Tim Connolly is the chief business officer of the company, possessing responsibilities pertaining to strategic initiatives for the sports streaming platform. Some of these areas of focus include content rights and licensing, distribution and strategic partnership and subscriber growth and retention strategies. Connolly previously helped lead subscriber growth for Apple TV+ and MLS Season Pass at Apple, along with serving in senior leadership roles at Hulu and The Walt Disney Company.

Amit Dudakia will be responsible for product management and design, along with programming and editorial for Venu Sports in his new role of senior vice president and head of product. Dudakia most recently worked as the senior vice president of product management for Fox Technology and Digital where he led product and design for the FOX Sports division. Dudakia started working with the Fox Corporation at FX Network where he helped launch a variety of entities under its umbrella.

Skarpi Hedinsson has been named the chief technology officer of Venu Sports and will be responsible for technology strategy and execution for the streaming service. Hedinsson was previously the chief technology officer of the Los Angeles Rams and played an integral role leading the team envisioning, designing and implementing technology within SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park. Hedinsson is the former chief technology officer of Disney/ABC Television Group, working in the role amid the launch of the WATCH ABC and WATCH Disney services.

David Hillman will oversee legal matters for Venu Sports in his new role of chief legal officer. Before joining Venu Sports, Hillman worked on the corporate legal executive management team at Paramount Global, recently serving as executive vice president and general counsel for CBS Sports, CBS News and Stations and Broadcast Operations. Within his position, he observed negotiations for strategic content agreements across several genres. Hillman previously held similar positions at Simon & Schuster and Westwood One.

Gautam Ranji will serve as the chief financial officer for Venu Sports, having purview over financial operations for the joint streaming venture. Ranji is the former chief financial officer and treasurer for Sphere Entertainment, involved in fiscal functions and within the management team that launched the Sphere in Las Vegas, Nev. Before this endeavor, he was responsible for strategic planning and business development at CBS and was a co-leader for the integration following the merger between Viacom and CBS, currently known as Paramount Global.

Judy Schwab is the senior vice president and head of people at Venu Sports, overseeing workforce planning, organizational effectiveness and talent acquisition along with the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Schwab previously worked as a leader in human resources within the Apple Services division, and she was also a member of The Walt Disney Company leading human resources for its direct-to-consumer businesses. She was a key member of the leadership team that helped launch Disney+ and integrated Hulu as well.

In addition to the leadership team at Venu Sports, more than 150 engineers and executives are working to build the product that will look to serve sports fans without a traditional cable subscription. The service will combine several linear television networks owned by The Walt Disney Company, Fox Corporation and Warner Bros. Discovery that broadcast sports programming. Pricing and a launch date for the service have not yet been announced.

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