Monday, December 21, 2015

Sporting and the Royals to Form a Network? Would that be a Good Move?

Just a passing comment in an article on an MLB blog about the Kansas City Royals, their current TV deal, and its potential affect on their ability to compete, but it is one to certainly take a look at. The article on Today's Knuckleball talked about the Royals potentially creating their own network, something the club did in the early 2000's at the height of the team's futility. Apparently part of the buzz with them working on their own network is that the Royals could partner with Sporting Kansas City to help offset costs.

For the last two seasons Sporting Kansas City's games have been broadcasted on 38 The Spot in Kansas City. All of the club's games that have not been televised on national TV have been broadcasted on the local channel along with a 30 minute pregame and another 30 minute post game show. It's certainly not been a bad deal for Sporting as they've been on an over-the-air network that has allowed them to reach more people who may not necessarily have cable television.

The idea of creating a network with the Royal does have its draw backs and things that Sporting should keep in mind before proceeding down that path. One thing that Sporting and the Royals would need to do is to make sure they have the network lined up with local cable providers in Kansas City. It's one of the issues of sports networks around the country have to deal with when cable networks don't choose to carry a channel. In MLS such a thing happened with the Houston Dynamo (along with the Astros and Rockets) with CSN Houston not being carried on the majority of cable providers in the Houston area. It kept a number of Dynamo fans from being able to watch their team when they were on the road and not on national television.

Another thing that Sporting KC may want to be mindful of is their key demographic and their use of television. While I personally don't see myself getting rid of cable in the near future, I'm also not really in the target demographic that Sporting KC is really chasing any more. Sporting has really seemed to try to make more of a play for those in their 20's, and they've done a decent job of doing it with the atmosphere at Sporting Park. But one thing that demographic seems to be doing is that they're not watching television as much any more. You hear a lot about cord cutters and people ditching cable as a whole, moving away from a channel like 38 The Spot to a cable channel may cause a drop in that demographic that SKC wants.

The final thing that Sporting will likely want to keep an eye on regarding any deal with the Royals would be how exactly that relationship would work on a network. Sporting and the Royals' seasons overlap for the vast majority of it, and if both were to go into business together on a network, the question is who would get first billing. And in reality it wouldn't even be a question, the Royals still pull better ratings than Sporting KC can pull, even when the Royals weren't actually winning. The worry here would be SKC getting put into a position where their games are not even being broadcasted live, instead being put on tape delay for a Royals game. Such things have happened to other MLS teams in the past, like New York City FC having a game of theirs against the Philadelphia Union shown on tape delay on the YES Network, or DC United just a couple of years ago having similar on CSN Washington, as well as other examples.

Being part of their own network though would allow for Kansas City to have more of their own program. Over the last couple years the team has done a few things with 38 the Spot and prior television partners, specifically around the playoffs, having some shows to hype them up (I remember appearing on one myself). That sort of thing could be expanded on a network of their own with the Royals. A weekly show run by the team, just a way to get more information out to fans.

The fact that the Royals see Sporting as a legitimate business partner for a network is certainly a plus. But if Sporting KC is serious about something like this they're going to have to be very good with their negotiations or else they run the risk of alienating fans if the deal is too lopsided for the Royals.

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