A Letter From Ted Leonsis – May 2024

Fans,

As the Mystics take the court for tonight’s home opener, there’s an unmistakable buzz surrounding the team. I could not be more delighted by the growing excitement and demand for our women’s team—but to be clear, it comes as no surprise, rather this is our vision coming to fruition. Our ownership group, among the WNBA league’s most tenured, has steadfastly believed in the transformative power of women’s sports and strategically invested to fill market gaps.

The results now speak for themselves:

  • Soaring Viewership: TV viewership for WNBA games has soared, more than doubling from 2019 to 2023, signaling a broadening appeal that transcends traditional sports demographics.
  • Draft Day Enthusiasm: Nearly 2.5 million viewers tuned into the 2024 WNBA Draft in the U.S– nearly five times higher than last year’s viewership.
  • Remarkable Local Fan Engagement: Last season, Mystics fans consistently filled the Entertainment and Sports Arena beyond its capacity, with an average attendance of 4,391 fans per game.
  • Record-Breaking Sales: For the first time in our franchise’s history, we’ve achieved seven-figure sales for a single game—the upcoming match against the Fever at Capital One Arena on June 7th. Sales continue to grow daily as excitement for this season builds.

The data speaks volumes: there’s a palpable hunger for women’s basketball, and particularly for the Mystics. And with continued investment, I believe we will continue to see exponential growth. Here’s our roadmap:

All In Investment: Two years ago, we invested in the WNBA’s landmark capital raise– the largest investment in a women’s sports property. This was both a business decision and it was a signal to the industry and fans alike that the Mystics were poised for major growth. That outcome allowed the league to make great progress in growing the sport’s popularity and to better reach all potential fans.

Game Day Experience: Our fans deserve an exceptional game day experience, and we’ve innovated to meet this expectation.

  • Ticketing. We were the first team in the league to introduce variable and dynamic pricing, refining the ticketing experience to bring in the revenue the team needs to continue to grow.
  • Scalable. If you haven’t been to ESA, please go!  The atmosphere is electric. And with our ability to now move four games per year (plus playoffs) to the Capital One Arena when fan demand exceeds ESA’s capacity, we’re prepared to amplify this excitement further.
  • Capital One Arena Renovations. Most of our improvements at Capital One Arena over the next several years are scheduled to take place during Mystics season, so we’re looking at options to maintain this scalability. The team is ready to adapt and continue its upward trajectory, and we’ll ensure the team has every opportunity to grow and succeed.

Strengthening Player Facilities: Championship success begins with superior preparation. Co-located at ESA, the Mystics share their practice space with the Wizards, creating a supportive community. This includes access to the same high-caliber facilities and equipment used by the Wizards, ensuring top-tier training environments. Additionally, the Mystics enjoy chef-catered meals tailored to meet their specific nutritional needs, further enhancing their health and performance. As we develop a new practice facility for the Wizards, the Mystics will have a full facility with training and staff support, nutritional programs, and specialized enhancements designed to optimize the performance of women athletes.

Revolutionizing Media Coverage:  We have made significant strides in enhancing the visibility of women’s sports. Early in my tenure with the team, we (successfully) urged the Washington Post to introduce a dedicated WNBA tab on its website. Now, as the chairman of the NBA Media Committee, I witness firsthand the high value that media companies place on women’s sports programming. To continue growing our fanbase, excitement, and brand awareness, it’s critical to have high quality programming for fans at home. Starting last season, our organization committed to producing, airing, and streaming all available Mystics games locally on Monumental Sports Network. Additionally, Monumental Sports Network has been and continues to be the only local programmer that offers pregame and postgame coverage aside live Mystics games. Our network will also debut new original programs and magazine style documentaries that bring fans closer to our amazing athletes this Summer. So, while women’s sports coverage has historically lagged in dynamism and depth compared to men’s, we have previously invested in and will continue to invest in providing our region with the most robust coverage of a WNBA team of any team across the league.  At-home viewers can expect the same high-quality product from MNMT that they expect from Wizards or Capitals games, tailored just for Mystics fans.

As we reflect on our journey, the evidence is clear: our bold bets on the Mystics were well-founded. And, with every stride we take, we reaffirm our commitment to raising the bar higher. Looking ahead, the WNBA’s media rights are up for renewal in 2025, making 2024 a critical year for setting the financial foundation for the next decade. Thus, to those who have doubted the potential of our women’s teams, I say with pride: “We told you so.” To our fans, our partners, and our players, I say: “Rest assured, we are just getting started.”

-Ted

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