- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Washington Commanders are in the market for a new television partner.

The team’s contract with NBC Sports Washington expires at the end of March and will not be renewed — bringing a conclusion to the longtime partnership.

The Commanders and Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which bought NBC Sports Washington last August, failed to reach an agreement on a new deal. A source familiar with the situation said the two sides were in negotiations, but Monumental decided to drop the Commanders after determining the proposed agreement wouldn’t have been a profitable deal for the network. 

The Commanders’ current deal with NBC Sports Washington was struck in 2019, but the relationship dates back at least 10 years earlier. The network aired the team’s preseason games each fall, a pre- and post-game broadcast and “Command Center,” a team-produced show hosted by senior vice president of broadcasting Julie Donaldson. 

A Commanders spokesperson said the team’s preseason games will continue to be broadcast next season on NBC4, a local affiliate that is still owned by NBCUniversal. That agreement runs through 2024-25, though the team has an opt-out clause for that final year. 

“We appreciated the partnership with NBC Sports Washington, and understand that its new owner, Monumental Sports, is focusing its coverage on basketball and hockey,” a Commanders spokesperson said in a statement. “As the content/RSN landscape evolves, it gives us an opportunity to take a holistic look at our content distribution strategy. We look forward to continuing to provide Commanders fans with the insight, coverage and great content they expect.”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and WNBA’s Washington Mystics, declined to comment. 

The expiring contract marks the latest sponsorship shakeup for the Commanders. Last year, the team found a new radio home as it reached a deal with BIG 100 FM after leaving longtime partner The Team 980. 

That swap came with a bit of drama when The Team 980’s Kevin Sheehan said on air that the two sides “disagreed on the value of the broadcasts” and “it was important” to continue to provide “honest, objective analysis,” leading to a sharp rebuttal from the Commanders. A Washington spokesperson said then that Audacy, which owns The Team 980, was an “active and aggressive participant” in submitting a bid for the team’s radio rights, but added the Commanders selected a partner who would bring a larger reach. 

The Commanders also renamed its headquarters in 2022, reaching a sponsorship deal with OrthoVirginia after the team’s former partner, Inova, opted to cut ties with the franchise a year earlier. Beer giant Anheuser-Busch and medical billing company Medliminal later joined Inova as companies that did not choose to re-up with the team. 

Last August, Team President Jason Wright took issue with the notion that sponsors didn’t want to work with the Commanders.

“You would think with the negative public headwinds that we’ve faced that we would be down in sponsorship,” Wright told reporters. “But we’re up in categories, total, year over year. We’re projecting to be up double digits in overall sponsorship. It’ll be our highest sponsorship [revenue] total since 2005.”

Sports Business Journal first reported the news that the Commanders were leaving NBC Sports Washington.

The Commanders’ relationship with the network ends while owner Dan Snyder explores a sale of the team. If the Commanders are sold in the coming days, weeks or months, finding a new television partner will become another task for the team’s next ownership — which also will have to pursue a new stadium and headquarters.  

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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