Royal families struggle in the current entertainment landscape

It’s a beautiful Tuesday evening in early April. A little windy, of course. But the good kind of wind, the ideal kind of wind: a breeze that brings you to the edge of the cold. It would rain later in the night, but for now it’s baseball time. The game starts at 6:40, a change from the 7:10 start times of past years to accommodate families with school-aged children.

Whit Merrifield, a longtime Royals favorite who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays last summer, came on in the second inning and received a nice ovation with only a few sporadic boos. He tilts his helmet as it dawns on the drowsy crowd what’s going on as more and more join the chorus of clapping.

However, the volume of the noise is overwhelming because, despite it being an objectively great night for baseball in the 2023 home opener, fewer than 13,000 fans are in attendance – 12,123 to be exact. The Royals have already pulled the marketing lever with a “flash sale” for $5 tickets. That Tuesday night the hot dog was also $1, in an economy where it’s basically impossible to get almost something for $1.

It hasn’t really worked so far. You might say that, hey, it’s April, school is still in session, do you really expect 30,000 on a Tuesday? The answer is, of course, obviously not, but 12,000 is pretty low, and not even the most alarming number of the year. In the Royals’ first Saturday — the second game of the year, a rain-free weekend — 20,000 fewer people showed up than on Opening Day, and the Royals couldn’t eclipse the 17,000 attendance.

This has very little to do with baseball not being popular. Many people watch baseball, both here in the United States and abroad, as the World Baseball Classic demonstrated. On this Tuesday night, a small army of Japanese journalists showed up to cover Yusei Kikuchi’s exit. The press box was packed with journalists from Kansas City and Toronto.

The Royals’ problem is something else: They no longer have Kansas City’s attention. Yes, the Royals still have fans — you’re reading this now, aren’t you — but the difference between a seemingly empty stadium and the raucous playoff atmosphere you could feel in 2014 and 2015 is the massive presence of casual fanv. They are gone. Last year, the Royals had their lowest non-pandemic regular season attendance in nearly half a century.

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to understand why. Just pick a direction and go. The easiest direction is that the Royals have been stinking for a long time. The World Series champion Royals quickly burned out and exposed some severe institutional problems that weren’t addressed until John Sherman pulled the plug on Dayton Moore last September. Now we’re probably staring at an eighth straight year without a winning record.

Of course, the other easy direction is that figuring out how to watch baseball games is a complex enough process that we publish a how-to guide every year because it changes every year. The difficulty stems from the toxic cocktail of MLB’s suffocating blackout restrictions, financial woes of regional sports networks, cord-cutting and ever-changing contract situations.

To find out if you can watch the Royals and how to watch the royals is to move in a goddamned pattern of sadness. First, are you in the market or out of the market? Well, if you’re out of market, you have one choice (, except you can’t watch your team if your team plays a game in your market. If you are in the Kansas City TV market or the Kansas City TV market ■ area? If so, what streaming service is Royals available on? Do you have to get a special package to watch the Royals? I need to check!

But even if you figure out where to go to find Royals games on cable-cutting TV — FuboTV and DirecTV Stream this year, for the record — the past decade has fundamentally changed the entertainment landscape. Streaming is no longer a way to consume media. This is the de facto way to consume media now. Netflix alone added over 46 million subscribers between 2013 and 2022 in the US and Canada. And that’s not to mention the rise of Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and other streaming services like Xbox Game Pass.

Number of Netflix subscribers paying for streaming in the United States and Canada from 2013 to 2022

What does it all mean? That means baseball has become (at least for cord cutters) just one streaming option among many. And for those casual fans, it’s a lot of work trying to figure out where they can watch the Royals, and if they never watch Royals games on TV, they probably don’t make it to the games. After all, you can spend several hundred dollars for a family of four to buy tickets, park, and get food and drinks. Or you can stream a movie at no extra cost at home and get a $30 pizza or whatever.

The only way to fix that is to win baseball games. Royals fans will show up if that happens; Kansas City sports fans are psychos who will root for almost anything. The key phrase there is “almost” anything. The core fans will be there regardless, and as long as the Royals keep prices low, they’ll average 15,000 per game even if they lose 120. But the Royals ownership group is in it to make money, and bigger crowds do more money than a crowd that can clearly hear Nate Eaton yelling “Got it, got it” from hundreds of feet in right field.

Props to the Royals for trying to get people off the field. And yet – the season is off to a bad start and the Royals are starting to compete with the Kansas City Current and Sporting Kansas City and then the NFL draft is here in a few weeks (figuratively and literally) and the Kansas City Chiefs are, you know, the defending Super Bowl champions.

Paradoxically, it is a great time to go to a Royals game. Tickets are affordable, parking is plentiful, and getting in and out is easy. Kauffman Stadium is a gem. Baseball is fun. Games are short, averaging half an hour shorter than last year.

You just can’t make people care. And right now, relatively few people care about the Royals enough to go to a baseball game or navigate the quagmire that is the current MLB streaming world, even though I think the Royals are worth caring about. It’s hard to blame people who don’t. It’s also hard to watch.

Read more

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *