WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 15: Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards, watches as his team plays the Indiana Pacers during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 15, 2014 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has made waves in the past by insinuating he’d consider keeping the TV rights for his two teams in-house, and making games available online through his Monumental Network. The idea of dumping a local RSN for an over the top service is also being considered by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

But Leonsis is pumping the brakes on going all digital – for now, at least. According to a report from Sports Business Daily, Leonsis has agreed to 15-year deals with CSN Washington for both the Capitals and Wizards TV rights, extending both teams’ contracts through the 2031-32 season and giving Leonsis a 33% stake in the network (something that Comcast RSNs have done several times in the recent past). The Capitals’ average rights fee will more than double to roughly $28 million per year (from $13 million), while the Wizards will also see their average rights fee increase by more than 100%, going from around $17 million to an estimated $35 million. By my rough math, that’s good for around $950 million total for both teams over the life of the contract.

Comcast also threw Leonsis a bone by allowing the new 15-year Wizards deal to start four years early during the 2017-18 season, allowing both teams to have their rights expire at the same time following the 2031-32 season. The Peter Angelos/Orioles owned MASN, which is a wasteland of syndicated programming during the MLB offseason, was apparently never in the discussion for either team’s rights.

In the immediate future, this isn’t great news for DC sports fans. With two of the regions franchises tying themselves into cable for the next 17 years, cord-cutting becomes less of an option if you want to watch either team. If games were distributed digitally through Monumental Network, which could have have happened as early as the 2017-18 season for the Capitals, fans wouldn’t need to buy a cable package with CSN Washington to watch their team. With Leonsis, one of the foremost champions of digital access and content, getting a stake in CSN Washington and tying his teams to the network for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be difficult to see any teams make the leap to digital only access before the end of the decade.

Perhaps when the Capitals’ and Wizards’ latest rights deal with CSN Washington is over, the tide will have turned and streaming only options will be more viable. But it’s looking less and less likely that happens soon, meaning sports fans across the country will continue to be stuck with pricey, bulky cable packages if they want to watch their local teams.

[Sports Business Daily]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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