Can a cord cutter still be a baseball fan in October? This Royals’ postseason run tests that very question.
Although the World Series will be on plain old local TV, many of the American and National league playoff games will be televised locally only through cable and other pay TV services.
“Unfortunately, I’m tied to the (pay TV) companies. Sports is such a big part of my life can’t go without them,” said Chadd Peter, an AT&T U-verse subscriber in Kansas City.
“It might be expensive, but it’s cheaper than going out to a restaurant every single time you want to watch a game,” Peter said.
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Even some cable customers may find Sunday’s American League games a challenge.
The Royals play the Astros in Houston and the Toronto Blue Jays play the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. The Royals game will be available only on the MLB Network, which is not standard fare for many cable packages.
Time Warner Cable customers, for example, saw the two Royals games played at Kauffman Stadium on Fox Sports 1, which is part of the company’s 70-channel Standard cable package, though not its less expensive 20-channel Starter package.
The MLB Network, however, is on Time Warner’s next step up, the 200-channel Preferred package. U-verse and Comcast similarly provide the MLB Network at a higher package level than they provide Fox Sports 1.
It means some customers may discover on Sunday that they don’t have the right package.
Mike Hogan, a Time Warner spokesman, said customers who have set-top boxes can step up to the Preferred package and get the MLB Network quickly with a call to the company.
Royals fans without game tickets had much less TV-viewing angst last year. All the Royals playoff games were on TBS, typically available in lower cable packages. All National League playoff games appear on TBS this year.
Still, there are plenty of Royals fans who are cord-cutters and have no coaxial cables in their living rooms, no DirecTV or Dish satellite receivers on their roofs, no U-verse connections.
Quinton Lucas, a Kansas City councilman, popped for tickets to the playoff games in Kansas City. He’s 31 and lives off the cable TV grid. He has not yet made plans for watching the Royals’ away games.
“I guess I’ll have to go to somebody’s house or something of that sort,” Lucas said.
Which makes him, and others, wonder about the wisdom of pushing some of baseball’s most exciting events beyond the reach of many fans, particularly younger ones who tend to be cord cutters. It also pushes games beyond the reach of lower-income families that don’t buy pay TV services.
“I guess it’s a boon to bars, but it’s a shortcoming to baseball,” Lucas said.
Kansas City’s sports bars were busy during Thursday night’s playoff game, including the Johnny’s Tavern in Lee’s Summit that opened in August. There was a waiting list before the first pitch.
“We carry pretty much every sports package you could ask for,” general manager Ryan Von Elling said. “We never know if we’re going to get that fan from California that wants to watch the Dodgers.”
Live events, particularly sports, also have been a boon to cable and pay television as they have lost part of the TV entertainment market to Netflix, Hulu and other services popular with cord cutters.
MLB spokesman Lou Barricelli notes this is the fourth year that the league has televised some playoff games exclusively on its MLB Network. And the network is available widely in the Royals’ viewing area through many outlets, including Google Fiber.
Also, technology is starting to make life without pay TV easier on sports fans who can’t make it out of the house.
Like Matt and Andrea Coates on Thursday. The Kansas City couple uses an HD antenna to pick up local television stations and had invited a friend over to watch the game. The couple was homebound, taking care of their twins who are just under 2 years old.
“We tried last year... to take them to a bar-restaurant for one of the World Series games. That did not go well at all,” he said.
And when Coates found out that Thursday’s game was only on Fox Sports 1 (not available with an antenna) it was time for other plans.
This is what friends with mobile technology and apps are for.
Eric Gold, the friend, brought his iPad and logged into Fox Sports Go, which the Fox network provides to allow subscribers to watch its events away from their homes. Major League Baseball does the same through its At Bat app. Cable and pay TV companies also offer similar mobile viewing options.
In each case, however, streaming the game is possible only for subscribers who authenticate that they have paid for that channel by entering a user name and password from their pay TV subscription.
Gold did and synced the tablet with the Coates’ television and, voila, playoffs baseball. As long as someone is paying.