There are some changes coming to soccer broadcasts in Utah.
Starting this weekend, KMYU will no longer air Utah Royals FC matches live the remainder of the season. Also starting this weekend, Real Salt Lake’s broadcast duo of Brian Dunseth and David James will be off the road and calling matches remotely for the remainder of the 2018 season, a growing trend in the sports broadcasting industry. RSL is in Houston on Saturday night, but there won’t be the familiar welcoming shot of the tandem from a booth inside BBVA Compass Stadium.
Instead, Dunseth and James will be calling the match here in Utah from Rio Tinto Stadium.
The moves come as the respective regular seasons for the clubs start to come to an end, giving the RSL organization a chance to see whether or not these changes will be beneficial in terms of cost-saving moving forward. The Royals, who have three remaining NWSL matches in 2018, will continue to be broadcast live on the KSL app, but unlike the previous 21 matches, the newest professional team in Utah won’t be found on live TV.
The NWSL has a league-wide stream that will be shown on the KSL app for Royals fans the rest of the season. The Royals currently sit in sixth place in the NWSL standings with three matches left, starting Saturday at Sky Blue FC in New Jersey.
Andy Carroll, RSL’s chief business officer, describes both late-season initiatives as trial runs.
“We’re really just going through an evaluation process for everything,” he said. “We’re looking at it as what will this be like, or what kind of quality are we going to have, and is this something we should look at threading into next year or do we really want to go back and do full broadcast?”
Kent Crawford, general manager of KUTV and KMYU, confirmed the changes.
“We are not currently planning on airing more Royals games,” he said, adding that the changes came down to cost-cutting.
The number of RSL games that air on KMYU will not be affected.
Beginning Saturday, RSL’s live feed will be coming from the broadcast in Houston, where RSL TV producers will be tasked with cutting the match more specifically to the viewership of the RSL fans in the region. Carroll pointed to the realities of the industry, saying that big-time networks like ESPN and FOX do so regularly. In fact, most of the matches at this summer’s 2018 FIFA World Cup were called remotely, not in Russia, but from studios in Los Angeles.
“It’s much better to sample it and see how it works,” Carroll said of the approach. “It’s a common industry practice. We can see what affect it has, and then, as we’re looking at 2019, we’ll have a better understanding of if this what we want to implement moving forward, or is this something we want to just look at differently and stay with our live broadcasts with our guys being there.”
When asked how much money this would save RSL, Carroll said they have some current projections, but nothing concrete to report at the moment. That’s part of this testing phase is to see if the advantages of this approach of broadcasting is more beneficial long-term. Carroll vowed that if the club notices a drop-off in the production’s broadcast, however, they’ll make a determination on how long to stick with it.
Carroll confirmed RSL sideline reporter Samantha Yarock will continue traveling with the team and help out during live broadcasts at away matches across the country.
“It’s significant when we send a truck to another stadium. There’s a lot that goes along with it,” Carroll said. “We’re very much committed to our broadcasts and having the best broadcasts we can, but we’re also always constantly evaluating to see how efficient we can be. When you look at MLS, we’d rather be as efficient as we can, because of arriving costs in the league with player costs and player development. For us, it’s just a matter of really taking a look at it and saying, ‘What’s it worth?’ Until you do it, you don’t know.”
This will not be the first time RSL away matches have been called in Utah instead of on the road. Dunseth said during the club’s first contract with KMYU, road matches were called remotely at what is now the Vivint Smart Home Arena around the 2010 and 2011 seasons. And he’s used to calling matches off a monitor rather than a booth. No, it’s not quite the same, but having been the voice on matches for CONCACAF Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Champions League and the Germany Bundesliga, Dunseth said it won’t affect how he prepares to call a match.
“I do miss out on the face-to-face time, there’s no doubt about that,” Dunseth said. “That’s one of the obvious consequences of not being with the team. And I’m not naive enough to assume there’s a divine right to be on the road to call these games. It is what it is, and we’re in an ever-changing market in terms of broadcast and production.
“I would prefer to be on-site, but I understand the dynamics in play at every level.”
Most MLS clubs have their broadcast teams call away matches remotely instead of sending a production crew, truck and talent all over the country. RSL is one of the last to try this approach. But, as Carroll explained, it’s in the testing phase for the remainder of the season.
Tribune reporter Scott D. Pierce contributed to this story.