Cord-cutting Royals fans may finally have another option to watch Royals games.
Bally Sports Kansas City announced it will begin its direct-to-consumer streaming service on June 23. The service, known as Bally Sports Plus, will cost $19.99 per month or $189.99 per year and will be available to consumers regardless of whether they already have a cable or satellite subscription. According to previous reporting, the service is only available in those markets where broadcast rights are currently available. Initially, the app will be available at BallySports.com, mobile and tablet (iOS, Android), Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire, and should be available on Roku devices by the All-Star break. The service will also air Oklahoma City Thunder and St. Louis Blues games in Kansas City.
The new service should be a relief to those Royals fans who do not subscribe to any cable or satellite service. The only streaming-only option right now is through DirecTV Stream at $79.99 per month for the introductory rate. This service, while more expensive than other streaming channels like Hulu or Paramount Plus, still provides a cheaper option for those fans only interested in live Royals games. Bally Sports will also begin similar services for the markets that carry the Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, and Tampa Bay Rays games.
Bally Sports, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, has looked to add gambling components to their broadcast, and the app may be a way to integrate some of those elements. Rob Weisbord, Sinclair’s COO and president of broadcast, told Broadcasting+Cable:
Eventually the app users will be able to play fantasy and predictive games for prizes, get advanced statistics, buy tickets, buy merchandise.
“We want to entice the Xbox generation. That’s who we envision as being the heavy app user and they’re used to interactivity. If we build up the interactivity, they’ll stay with the games longer, even if it’s a blowout,” he said. There will be virtual prizes, real prizes and in some cases cash prizes. “We want them to stay with the games and give them a component that makes them lean forward,” he said.
The features will have to be approved by the league and teams, and will not have direct betting.
Will the app work? Bally Sports Kansas City has been beset by technical issues since the Sinclair Broadcasting Group took over. Weisbord says, “The first thing we’re focused on is the quality of the video”.
Bally Sports is not the first regional sports network to offer a direct-to-consumer streaming service, NESN, which carries Red Sox games, unveiled the NESN 360 DTC app for $30 per month earlier this month. MLB has also discussed developing their own direct-to-consumer streaming service. Commission Rob Manfred addressed the issue this week:
“There is a strong sense among ownership that an undertaking we’re referring to as MLB Media should step into the digital space in particular to provide fans with greater and more flexible opportunities to watch games.
“We believe that Major League Baseball is uniquely situated to be successful in that undertaking. Unlike any other entity, we have access to all of the digital rights. And let’s not forget we do have the technology chops to stream 2,430 games given that we’ve been doing it since 2000. A really interesting discussion and a fan-focused discussion; it’s about giving fans that may be outside the traditional cable bundle adequate opportunity to see our games.”
Sinclair purchased Bally Sports Kansas City (formerly known as Fox Sports Kansas City) and 21 other regional sports networks in 2019 for $9.6 billion. The Royals signed a long-term deal with the regional sports network in 2020.
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