RSL and the Utah Royals FC say they have an ‘efficient, effective’ broadcast, heavy on streaming

Photo courtesy Real Salt Lake: RSL's broadcast duo of play-by-play voice David James (left) and analyst Brian Dunseth on set at Rio Tinto Stadium earlier this season.

Fans of Real Salt Lake and the Utah Royals FC have multiple options when it comes to watching games not played at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL home and road games are broadcast on KMYU — as well as Royals road games — and all games for both teams can be streamed online on either the KSL app or Yahoo Sports.

The details behind those broadcast options, however, have been tweaked within the last year, significantly in some cases. The RSL organization last August stopped airing Royals games live on KMYU and stopped sending on-air personalities David James and Brian Dunseth on the road with RSL.

At the time, RSL Chief Business Officer Andy Carroll said those decisions were made for financial reasons, after their previous broadcast partner, American Sports Network, folded in August 2017. ASN acquired rights to RSL and D.C. United games in 2015.

Afterward, the team had to shell out for broadcasts.

“We maintained everything as it was and then we started to really see the costs,” Carroll said, adding that the costs of producing their own broadcasts were “significantly higher” than originally projected.

Carroll said the amount of money saved by having James and Dunseth call road games from a broadcast booth inside Rio Tinto Stadium was “somewhere in the mid-six figures.” That estimate, he said, is a projection through an entire season.

“We are small market,” Carroll said. “We have to run as efficiently and as effectively as we can. And we would rather allocate the resources that we have to players so that we can be more competitive and make the playoffs. It's really that simple.”

At this point, Carroll said, the plan is to keep James and Dunseth grounded for RSL road games. He also said the cost savings allow the team to allocate more money to players and also to invest in Dunseth, James, producer Kenneth Neal and sideline reporter Samantha Yarock, who does travel to all RSL road games.

While Dunseth’s pay has remained the same since the organization suspended road travel, he said he signed a new multiyear contract in February.

It’s a common practice for talent not to travel for various types of sports broadcasts. In Dunseth’s career, he has analyzed games remotely that took place in places like Spain, Hong Kong, Germany and others. It doesn’t have a big impact on the way he does his job, he says, but there are drawbacks.

For instance, when a referee makes a call during a game, Dunseth is watching the same television feed as fans. That means if there is any confusion about a yellow card or a video review, Dunseth won’t have seen what happened and can’t convey his analysis in real time.

“We are at the mercy of the images that we are being shown in real time, meaning that if I don't see a yellow card shown, I have to wait for confirmation because if I don't, I'm taking an educated guess,” Dunseth said.

Carroll is aware of the limitations to not having broadcasters on the road, but he feels the club has made significant investments to counteract those drawbacks. Some of those investments include hiring Yarock last year and keeping her on the road, committing to stream games on the KSL app, and building a new studio desk at Rio Tinto last year, he said.

The Royals, after having live TV broadcasts cut before the end of last season, have returned to KMYU for road games this season. The feed comes from the National Women’s Soccer League, Carroll said. But for home games, there is no local television option.

Carroll said he wants fans to support the team for home games, which is why only road games are on local television. The team has sold about 5,000 season ticket packages, which is about the same number as last year, he said.

“We’ve got a stadium to fill,” Carrol said. “And we think that we have a great product and we have the world’s best players and the world’s best coaches. We have a great facility and we have very reasonable pricing. We hope that the fans and the community will support them when they’re home.”

Last season, the club had a play-by-play announcer and color analyst call home games and travel to road games. But much like the situation with RSL, the cost became too prohibitive. Carroll said ending those practices has saved about the same amount of money as it did on the RSL side.

“Right now the fundamentals of the economics don’t support that at this point,” Carroll said. “And it really comes down to that. As soon as it does, we’ll be the first ones to go back in and produce our own broadcasts.”

The shift to the NWSL feed meant the end of the radio simulcast with Mix 105.1. Carroll said the organization is looking into how much demand exists for a dedicated radio broadcast. If the club feels the demand is there and it is financially viable, the decision to add radio could come midseason, he said.

In all, Carroll believes both RSL and the Royals have the “No. 1 broadcast” in the country among MLS markets, particularly with all games being streamed for free online on two platforms and most games available on KMYU.

The organization as a whole, Carroll said, feels proud of its broadcast options.

“We think it’s a great broadcast the way we’re doing it,” Carroll said. "It’s a much more efficient, effective way for us to broadcast the games for our fans.”