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Archive for Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Cable companies balk at Royals package

Sunflower Broadband concerned about cost of Kansas City’s 100-game offering

March 12, 2003

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Monday's announcement by the Royals that Sunflower Broadband and a handful of other area cable television outlets would be part of the Kansas City baseball team's TV package was premature.

"I was kind of surprised we were listed," Sunflower Broadband general manager Patrick Knorr said Tuesday. "Their press release implied we had a deal, and we don't."

Sunflower Broadband belongs to the National Cable Television Cooperative that has agreed to a five-year marketing deal with the Royals, but each NCTC outlet operates independently.

According to Knorr, only one outlet -- Time-Warner Cable, which is producing the telecasts -- has agreed to carry the Royals. The others, including Sunflower Broadband, are concerned about the cost.

"On a per-hour basis, their package would be more expensive than any program we carry," Knorr said. "It's even more expensive than ESPN and it's just 100 games. No specials, no SportsCenter, just games."

Knorr did not give specifics about the cost to Sunflower Broadband, but said the Royals want "50 percent more than ESPN, our most expensive network."

In addition to the 100 games offered to the NCTC members, the Royals' network will produce 14 games -- opening day and 13 Sunday games -- on KMCI (channel 38). Sunflower Broadband provides KMCI as part of its basic package on channel 15 and thus would carry those 14 games.

Ultimately, those KMCI telecasts might be the only Royals games available on Sunflower Broadband, which serves about 35,000 subscribers in Lawrence, Eudora, Tonganoxie, Basehor, Linwood and Douglas and Leavenworth counties.

"At the price point they are at, it's not a good value to our subscribers," Knorr said. "We don't think the demand is there to raise the cost to our subscribers."

Sunflower Broadband would have to raise its basic rate, Knorr said, because the Royals will not allow the 100-game package to be carried on a pay-per-view or premium basis. Also, Knorr said it is an all-or-nothing deal, meaning outlets must take all 100 games or none.

"We'd like to provide the Royals," Knorr said, "but it needs to be a better value, and unless there's a new deal we can't."

The Royals plan to offer two spring training games later this month as part of their cable-TV offerings. The first packaged regular-season game is April 4 against Cleveland.

Sunflower Broadband is owned by The World Company, which also owns the Journal-World.

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