To the surprise of a lot of people, including myself, the Royals are in the hunt for a playoff spot. With renewed expectations, fans are watching the Royals more and more. In the first game of the Royals - Red Sox series, Fox Sports Kansas City (FSKC) set a viewer ratings record. As the seasons winds down and each game becomes more and more important, fans are less and less likely to see the Royals on TV, especially on the weekends. How close will the Royals have to be to making the playoffs for FSKC to show all the Royals games?
At the beginning of the season, the Royals and FSKC set up a schedule to show 140 games. Most of the time during the season, the skipped games are get-away day games. This leaves 22 games not televised. So far of the 116 games played, only seven (or 6%) have not been shown on FSKC. Over the remaining 46 games, 15 of them will not be shown with the current arrangement. Basically the Royals will be not be showing one out of every three as the team makes a push towards the playoffs.
The agreed upon schedule is maintaining some consistency. It is not showing some day games before travel, but eight September Saturday and Sunday games not being shown. Four of the games are against the AL Central Division leading Detroit Tigers. Two are against the Texas Rangers, who the Royals are chasing in the wild card. Finally, the last two games of the season are not scheduled to be televised.
Two reasons exist for no weekend games at the season's end and both involve the F-word, football. First, Fox uses the cameras, which were to be used to broadcast the Royals games, for college (and sometimes pro) football games. Currently , there just aren't enough camera to go around. The second reason is no one would watch the baseball games because the Chefs are on TV. This reason in understandable. With only one winning season since 1995, the Royals aren't usually playing for much over the baseball season's last month. Instead, the Chiefs season is just beginning.
So if the Royals continue to make progress closer to a playoff spot, will the fans not be able to see some crucial final games? Maybe and maybe not.
A little over a year ago, I interviewed the Royals V.P. Of Communication and Broadcasting, Mike Swanson. I asked him about this very subject:
Over the last couple of years, the September TV games seem to be really few and far between. Can they fix that if the team ended up competing in September?
And his response:
I think in the contract there is an out. That is where I think common sense will enter into things. If we are not scheduled to televise a game, but it will factor into the race, I think conversations between the two entities will fit it in and make it work. It is just a matter of dealing with the financial aspect of it because with every telecast, there is a rights fee for it. We hopefully will find a way to make it work. When that time comes, I am sure very reasonable men will get into the room or get on the phone and talk about it and get it figured out.
So the Royals and FSKC can work it out, but the real question is, will they? Truthfully, I think they will if the Royals are close. The question is, how close do the Royals need be. Currently, the Royals are six and half games behind the Tigers. Would FSKC, want to show the games versus the Tigers in September's first weekend if the two teams are this close. Is so, would they do it if the Royals are 8 games outs? If six and a half is not close enough, how close do the Royals have to be? Four games? Two games?
Also, the entities involved will need to decided when they will pick up the games. Fox will need to re-appropriate broadcast cameras they had allotted to other events for the Royals games. How much time will they need in advance? I am guessing a lest a week, but they only know for sure.
The Royals, FSKC and the fans have not been in this situation with the Royals playing meaningful baseball late into the season. In the past, it was not a huge deal to not broadcast weekend games over the season's last month. It will interesting to see how this dilemma gets resolved if the Royals keep winning and it gets closer to the first weekend when the Royals are not on TV. It will be a intriguing dance between all the entities involved.