In the first episode of his new series The Walk-and-Talk, President Obama’s former body man Reggie Love strolls through Blagden Alley with Jeremiah Langhorne, the chef and owner of The Dabney. As they pass a mural by Aniekan Udofia, Love says “Only place you could find something like this in town, right?”
The Walk-and-Talk is a TV show. Sort of. It’s only available on Monumental Sports Network, a new subscription-based DC streaming site. Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Wizards and the Caps, owns the network. But you can’t find those teams’ games on MSN—CSN Mid-Atlantic has the rights through the 2031-2032 seasons. Instead, live games come from the Mystics, minor league teams, and high school basketball programs. MSN’s nearly 40-person production crew also makes original content like Love’s show. The episodes usually run about five minutes.
This eclectic mix of programming will cost you $13 a month. If you pay for a full year in advance, you can get it for $9 (though a current promotion knocks that down to $7.13).
Zach Leonsis runs MSN. He’s the network’s general manager and VP, as well as the son of Monumental Sports & Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis. MSN, he says, is more than just a streaming site. For example, it offers subscribers events like a mixology party with Wizards small forward Otto Porter Jr.
With The Walk-and-Talk, Leonsis hopes Love—a longtime friend—can extend MSN’s reach beyond sports. The guests range from the not-so-surprising (Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal) to the kind-of-surprising (Langhorne). For Love, it’s a mostly a side gig: He’s worked in finance since leaving the White House in 2011 to pick up an MBA at Wharton. Love is currently a partner at RON Transatlantic, an investment firm that recently joined with a Chinese conglomerate to buy SkyBridge Capital from Trump confidant Anthony Scaramucci.
Leonsis says that the four-month-old network is doing better than expected, but says he can’t say how many subscribers it has. If that sounds like he’s hedging, remember that it’s usually a mistake to underestimate Leonsis ventures. Ted Leonsis signed a 15-year rights deal last year that reportedly doubled the Wizards and Capitals average annual rights fees to $63 million and gave his company a 33 percent equity stake in CSN Mid-Atlantic, which currently broadcasts the games. CSN Mid-Atlantic has picked up its own equity stake in MSN. But Leonsis had previously made it known that he looks forward to a future when his teams broadcast directly to fans.
“I believe our destiny is to be in the media business,” he told SportsBusiness Journal in 2013. “It might be that in the future there is a broadband cable sports and entertainment network. Or it might be that the network exists on all platforms.” Last year’s partnership helps lay the groundwork for the latter. A future deal could bring Wizards and Caps games to both TV and Monumental Sports Network. Or maybe in a couple years, we’ll all be watching e-sports anyway. Ted Leonsis recently bought one of the biggest groups that competes in that realm.
For now, Monumental Sports Network is experimenting. Shows like The Indoor Game follow the creation of DC’s new Leonsis-owned arena football team, while The Making of a Wizard Girl tracks the NBA dance team’s auditions and practices. The episodes include repackaged press conferences and a tour of a sponsor’s healthcare facility. Maintaining an audience with that mix may be difficult.
“Look, I think that Monumental Sports has a great opportunity to really leverage a lot of unique assets that they have,” Love says. “To be able to show viewers and show their subscribers portions of the world that you can’t see on a daily basis.” Until then, there’s always Blagden Alley.