Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals are the latest team to put a stop sign in front of the regional sports network paradigm by creating Royals Television Network LLC.
Unlike the New York Yankees' Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, the Royals Television Network will not be a 24-hour sports service. Instead, it will provide 102 Royals games a year for operators to air on local-origination channels.
The network has already reached a distribution deal with the 440,000-subscriber Time Warner Cable system in Kansas City, Mo., and hopes to strike accords with other local operators in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa.
Neither the Royals nor Time Warner would discuss terms.
The establishment of RTN is a blow to Fox Sports Midwest, which carried 30 Royals contests last year, as well as St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. Sources said the network, which was paying about $5 million to the team, did not want to increase either its number of Royals telecasts or its payment to the franchise.
A Fox Sports Net spokesman said FSN "is still interested in a package of Royals games," but would not provide further details.
Royals Television Network president Mark Gorris said the team wants more exposure.
"Our long-term mission is clear — we want to maximize distribution of Royals games in the club's six-state region, create a strong affinity to the network among baseball fans and advertisers, and ultimately, meet the business needs of the Royals franchise and our valued distribution partners," he said.
Time Warner Cable will air the games on its Metro Sports service, which currently offers local college sports product and matches from Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards.
System plans shows
Time Warner Kansas City division vice president of public affairs Carol Rothwell said the system will develop a pre-game and post-game show to go along with the Royals contests.
"We've had a long relationship with the Royals and we'll look to expand that our coverage of the Royals and provide better programming to our consumers," Rothwell said.
Rothwell would not say whether the MSO would seek any rebates from Fox Sports now that it no longer has Royals games. "We evaluate all of our networks on an ongoing basis," she said.