By Zach Leonsis
At Monumental Sports & Entertainment, we spend a lot of time fostering our existing relationships with current fans while also thoughtfully considering how to reach the next generation of fans. In an effort to reach a new generation of fan who prefers to watch video via digital streaming channels, we continue to invest in our regionalized OTT streaming platform, Monumental Sports Network, and strive to push our company ahead in categories like gaming, esports and sports betting. We also keep investing in best-in-class concourse-level activations within our arenas as evidenced by the installation of our brand new video boards, our massive new center hung display and other state of the art improvements that I know fans really enjoy. Trying to stay ahead of the curve while making sure that great care is still given to our day-to-day operations is both a responsibility and delight.
But even with all that preparation, the uncertainty of today’s current and near-term circumstances force us to shift our mindset, reprioritize our efforts, and focus on what really matters: our community and our fans. We recognize that what people are missing the most right now is a shared sense of community. In moments of crisis, people generally like to rally together. We unfortunately cannot do that right now. In fact, we need to do just the opposite, staying at home to social distance from one another. That’s hard and feels counter-intuitive to most. That is why we at Monumental, in coordination with our partners at NBC Sports Washington, sought new ways to create shared experiences for our fans during this temporary chapter in our lives. I’m really proud of how quickly we worked with our regional sports network partner’s leadership team to debut new programming. Our Monumental esports team including Andrew McNeill, Jordan Zelniker, and Patrick Crossan also stepped up in a major way. Our goal is to offer something to our fans that is both fun and engaging, while also hopefully restoring a small sense of normalcy, because we could all use a dose of that right now.
We were very excited to roll out a brand-new slate of programming for the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards that featured video game simulations of our postponed regular season games courtesy of video game publishers EA Sports (NHL 20) and Take Two Interactive (NBA2K20). Leveraging our familiarity with the gaming world, we sought to create and share programming that fans can watch on NBC Sports Washington during normal game broadcast times or on-demand via our streaming service, Monumental Sports Network, without the need to pay for a subscription. If you haven’t checked out one of these simulated games yet, I hope you have a chance to soon. The titles published by EA Sports and Take Two Interactive are remarkable in terms of their realistic graphics and gameplay. If you haven’t picked up a controller in years, I think you will be impressed by what you watch. Chris Miller, Wes Hall, and Nick Ashooh provide great analysis on the Wizards side while Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin make their signature calls on the Capitals side. I am also very pleased by how enthused our players are about watching the simulations. If you have a chance, make sure to visit the Capitals’ official Twitter or Instagram accounts to watch Nicklas Backstrom’s post-game interview after the virtual Caps defeated the virtual Blues. It’s a pretty enjoyable video and Nick does a great job of adding a bit of levity to the interview too.
We’ve also launched a new activation for our Capitals esports sub-brand, Caps Gaming. Our official Caps Gaming streamer, John Wayne, is taking on other NHL 20 pros as they play as other NHL clubs that remain on the Capitals’ regular season schedule. Unlike the simulations that air on NBC Sports Washington and Monumental Sports Network, these games are played by actual esports pros and are free to watch on Twitch. On the NBA 2K League side, the league has acted promptly to launch a 3v3 preseason tournament featuring NBA 2K League pros, celebrity streamers, and fans as they all compete for prize money which will benefit the coronavirus response effort. We split our Wizards District Gaming roster into two teams of three players each: Team Alarm.com and Team Leidos. It made for some great drama and for some awesome live entertainment.
We feel fortunate that we are able to use our digital platforms to connect fans with some of our players for some fun content while we all work and live remotely. We are also happy to announce that we will air replays of the Washington Mystics’ 2019 championship run and the entire 2019 Wizards District Gaming season on a combination of both NBC Sports Washington and Monumental Sports Network. We will make all of these new additional game replays available free of charge to fans for their viewing pleasure. While we understand that none of this will ever replace new live games, we still want to try our best to provide some enjoyable entertainment for our community. And we’ve got more new programming to come too! This pause in our regular season schedules is not what we envisioned. Our primary thoughts and concerns are focused on the health and safety of everyone in our local DMV region, and throughout the rest of the country as well. We can use this time to look ahead and learn valuable lessons on what new pieces of programming our audience most enjoys too. Adapting to change is what we as Washingtonians do best, and we are confident that we’ll be stronger as a community once we get through this. We hope you all enjoy some of this new programming from the comforts of your own home and we look forward to seeing everyone back at Capital One Arena soon enough. Stay healthy and remember to keep washing your hands!