As the baseball season winds down, the clock also could be ticking on KPLR’s run of televising Cardinals games. It remains to be seen where the over-the-air games in the Cards’ local television package end up next season — or even if there will be a free-TV portion to the deal. The current agreement places 41 games on Channel 11.
FSN Midwest, the cable-satellite TV outlet that carries the bulk of the team’s local television package (110 games this season), has been negotiating with the club for months to increase its number of games as part of a new deal that would begin next year. (The club’s arrangement with KPLR allows for either side to opt out of after this season.)
This is a high stakes game not only for the team and TV outlets, but for a significant number of fans. Only about 80 percent of homes in the market subscribe to services that carry FSN Midwest, which is one of the lowest percentages of cable-satellite TV penetration in the country. That means that one in five homes in the area — about 244,000 total – could face a significant reduction in the number of telecasts available over free TV, as the club would be taking money over those fans’ interests and the fact more people watch on KPLR than FSN. That would parallel the team’s switch of flagship radio stations, from KMOX (1120 AM) to KTRS (550 AM).
Let’s not forget the Cardinals made the public build them a stadium with fewer seats in it, so they’ve got to dissuade the casual fans somehow. By making the games unavailable for free on television or the radio, they’re on their way.
You know, current sports owners remind me more and more of quick-turn real estate rehabbers. They buy a team, slap some wallpaper agreements raising revenue in the short term, and sell it for exorbitant profit after only a short time. The next investor group picks it up, does the same, and hopes to make their short term profits before the infrastructure–in this case, the fan base–crumbles entirely.