Royals, FOX Sports agree to new deal (source)

February 18th, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City have a “handshake deal” for a new television contract, a source told on Monday.

An announcement on the broadcast schedule for Spring Training games and the regular season could be coming within the week. It is believed that essentially all Royals regular-season games will be on television through some cable outlet, and Spring Training games normally scheduled will air as well.

An announcement regarding a signed deal is likely to come soon.

The Royals’ 11-year deal with FSKC expired after the 2019 season. That deal was backloaded and brought the Royals about $25 million last season, though its annual average was closer to $20 million.

The new deal, has learned, likely will be far less in terms of length than the previous deal, perhaps more in the six-to-eight year range. More major media companies are concerned about the future of the TV/cable landscape, which will make long-term deals perhaps harder to negotiate for teams.

Also, the new deal was earlier believed to be somewhere near an average of $48-52 million per year -- that figure is not yet confirmed, but it would fall in line with the Royals’ market size and comparable deals with comparable markets around baseball.

The Royals’ previous deal with FSKC was signed in 2008 and, though it is now often regarded as financially inadequate, it was welcomed at the time. It replaced the ill-fated in-house Royals Sports Television Network, which struggled mightily trying to distribute games to area cable and satellite companies, often leaving tens of thousands of fans without coverage.

The new deal doesn’t have carriage coverage with DISH Network, which has yet to reach a future overall agreement with FOX Sports.

Negotiations for a new deal between the Royals and FSKC also have been slowed by outside factors, namely Sinclair Broadcasting's deal to purchase all the regional sports networks (including FSKC) from Disney, which acquired numerous 21st Century Fox assets.

A new TV deal won’t necessarily be a financial game-changer for the small-market Royals, who would still have one of the lowest TV revenue deals in baseball. But the new deal would be on par with Kansas City’s market size.

While the Royals enjoyed a ratings boost during their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014-15 -- their 12.3 average rating in 2015 was the highest in MLB in 13 years -- and viewership remains strong even in the recent downswing, ratings themselves are mostly irrelevant when negotiating TV contracts. Market size, available TV homes and television footprints are the leading factors.

According to Nielsen, here are MLB’s bottom three in terms of television households/DMA (designated market area):

  1. Kansas City: 909,420
  2. Cincinnati: 850,030
  3. Milwaukee: 848,420