kid-watching-tvAs you know, the Chicago Cubs have a portion of their TV rights under contract with CSN through 2019, and another portion under contract with WGN through 2014. That latter portion is currently being negotiated, presumably with both WGN and other suitors. For a more comprehensive rundown on where things stand, TV-wise, you can see this recent piece on the Phillies big new deal.

As you also know, TV deal money is increasingly dividing the haves and the have nots in MLB, and, given certain sale-related spending restriction currently imposed upon the Cubs, landing that TV revenue pot of gold is more important than ever.

But can the Cubs actually get that money soon?

The only way the Cubs could get the big money in the next few years is if they partnered with CSN to pick up the WGN games while simultaneously renegotiating a long-term deal past the current 2019 expiration, or if they partnered with another network on the WGN games while simultaneously agreeing to the full slate post-2019 (with some of that money locking in now). Most have speculated that the other possible hypothetical network is FOX, given their local presence in Chicago over-the-air, and their apparently long-term desire to become a sports behemoth nationwide.

Whether the CSN path is a legitimate option remains up in the air, but, enter Patrick Mooney – writing for CSN, incidentally – on the other possible path. Mooney reports that, indeed, the Cubs are discussing a TV deal with FOX, according to sources. Give his thoughts a read, given the import of these TV discussions. It’s possible that the Cubs could ink a deal with FOX to take over the WGN games from 2015 through 2019 on an over-the-air channel, with FOX angling toward the full slate thereafter with a new regional sports network on cable.

Back in November, the Cubs opted out of their TV deal with WGN, which gave WGN 30 days to agree to pay a certain market price for the Cubs’ TV rights after 2014 (the current agreement is way, way below market). We haven’t heard anything about WGN’s position after that, and the 30 day period has long since expired. Given the silence, it makes sense that these other negotiations would be going on. Teams have tended to announce TV deals a year or more in advance of them actually kicking in, so this could all happen very quickly. With the Convention on tap this week, I presume there will be a great deal of discussion – or at least questions, I’d hope – about the TV plan.

  • CubChymyst

    If the Cubs managed to keep their games shown nationally and increase their revenues, that would be the best of both worlds.

    • BenRoethig

      I’ve been thinking about this, could they start a Cubs Network by making it a OTA sub-channel for Fox affiliates produced by WFLD?

    • Brett

      It would, indeed. But, either way, that’ll last through 2019 at the most.

  • Ballgame17

    I think it makes the most sense to come to an agreement that allows a network to take over WGN’s games and assume the full-slot after the CSN deal is up. Hopefully the Cubs can “front-load” (haha) the contract with whoever they come to an agreement with and start spending money NOW…

    • hansman

      That’d only put us in the same boat as the contract wears on.

  • funkster

    So is it an actual possibility that the Cubs could come to an agreement with Fox for the WGN games and post 2019 games? I mean, technically, they wouldn’t have to wait until the current deal with CSN is up to announce a post 2019 agreement with Fox would they?

  • itzscott

    People are more mobile now than ever and it’s pretty common for someone NOT to live in the same region their entire lives.

    For that and selfish reasons, I feel the whole concept of REGIONAL sports networks are outdated.

    I’d love to be able to pick up Cub, Bear, Bull and Blackhawk games where I live and not have to rely on separate offerings such as Extra Innings, etc.

    Perhaps something regional in name only but available as an a la carte option by a cable provider on a national basis would make more sense than the silly blackouts whose naive intent is to convert me to be a fan of a local team, which will never happen.

  • Kyle

    Isn’t Fox literally the only allowable option? I would hope they are talking.

    • dabynsky

      I believe so because I’m sure I’ve read before that the Cubs can’t sign with another cable option because they can’t compete with CSN during the contract. Also believe that there has been rumblings that CSN is uninterested in purchasing the remaining games, but I am not certain about that. That does in fact pretty much leave only Fox to compete with WGN in purchasing the rights to Cubs games.

      • BenRoethig

        That does puzzle me. Would NBC sports really want to have a competing network to CSN in 2020? Effectively the Cubs subsidize a lot of the other programming (like the Sox)

    • hansman

      It seems to me that some Cubs fans are less interested in seeing the team become good than they are in making sure that when it’s good, no credit gets laid on The Leadership.

      • Kyle

        If and when it becomes good, they’ll get all the credit in the world. I’m not *that* hard to please. All it took last season was Edwin Jackson and a handful of one-year deals and I was drooling over them.

        • Isaac

          Yep, that worked out really well. Glad that your drool was well placed.

        • hansman

          Someone is sensitive about it this morning.

  • V23

    If it does go to fox and it’s on channel 50, I hope their HD is upgraded.

    On another note, I just saw that the Angels said they never met with Tanaka last week. Has there been any confirmation that the Cubs met with him? And if so, who was it?

    I only saw the confirmation that the white sox did.

    • MichiganGoat

      Since we haven’t heard any confirmations is assume that everyone is keeping things ver quiet and secretive. This is why I don’t give much credit to the finalist rumor.

  • Ballgame17

    Apparently the GM of the Angels (DiPoto) claims he hasn’t met or spoken with Tanaka’s side. I find this extremely hard to believe, so if you want to fly under the radar don’t say you haven’t even discussed him. I’m guessing they’re involved…

    • CubFanBob

      But but but the Angels are one of the three finalist pick by Tanaka and his wife really wants to him to play on the west coast ? ? Also the Yankees already have him signed right ? ?

      • Kyle

        Tanaka preferring the Angels and the Angels not having met with him are not mutually exclusive.

        • hansman

          At this stage in the game, it’s unlikely.

          If Tanaka were that interested in LA, his agent would have picked up the phone by now to add another team to the negotiating table.

        • hansman

          And it’s probably more likely that Tanaka’s agent is putting this out there hoping that it gets the teams in LA or NY (whichever they are lacking in) to the table.

    • MichiganGoat

      Again why would anyone say anything about meeting with him? There is a complete lockdown until better sources and rumors come out.

  • Ron Swansons Mustache

    The Cubs would be a huge brand for Fox – they just launched Fox Sports 1 and there is a ton of room for growth. I know they made a sizable investment in Big East basketball.

  • Tommy (TC)

    I know the Cubs are in a tough situation given their remaining contract with CSN, but the idea of partnering up with FOX to create their own station worries me. The prospect of the cable model blowing up in the coming years is real, and many politicians are trying to force cable companies to offer a-la-carte staiton ordering. If the Cubs put most of their future TV income stock in a network that, like others of it’s kind, depends heavily on cable subscription fees automatically added to everyone’s bill, there’s a very real chance of the network not producing a profit. It’s already happened.

    This may be the only way they even get FOX to agree to some sort of deal, but it’s a frustrating circumstance to be left in. I wish they could buy out their partnership in CSN and get a big deal right away

    • JB88

      I disagree slightly with this comment. While certain politicians might be pushing for a la carte programming, the cable media is huge and rich and their ability to fight back in Washington should be noted. I’d be shocked if a la carte cable subscriptions became a thing. More likely, you are going to see more “cable” subscriptions tied to internet media, not an unbundling of media at the TV level.

      Moreover, I have to say I think that Fox is a great negotiating partner. Fox is probably the only real serious network out there to push back against CSN. Remember, Fox is: (a) massively interested in expanding its sports coverage; and (b) helped fund and develop other niche sports networks; i.e., BTN. Adding to that, Fox realistically is capable of taking over the WGN games through its over-the-air broadcast ability in Chicago, while simultaneously capable of stepping into CSN Chicago’s shoes in 2019. Couple that with its national slot, already shown ability to help create niche sports networks (and get that network onto a basic cable platform in the Midwest), and you have a potentially perfect partner. Better yet, if Fox is negotiating those rights, you can be sure that CSN knows about it and knows that they could lose the Cubs completely to one of their largest sports programming competitors.

  • BlameHendry

    I’ve always liked Fox’s baseball network. I’d love to see Fox pick up the WGN games and take over the full slate in 2020. But I’d still rather CSN take up the full slate right now and re-negotiate the entire deal. That’s a pipe dream though…

  • heitkamp2827

    Why would the Cubs make 60 of their games unavailable to to a large potion of their fan base. It doesn’t make sense to me at all. If they only aired the games on a Chicago station, that means all of the Cub fans outside the Chicago couldn’t watch the games. They wouldn’t even be able to get them through because of the stupid blackout rules. I just don’t see how this would make any sense. Wouldn’t you think that WGN would have more money to spend than a local Fox station? I think it seems like the Cubs best option would be to sign a 5 year extension with WGN.

  • CubbiesOHCubbies

    I know it’s probably a long shot, but as Brett mentioned in years past, the Cubs usually try to have a big announcement made at the convention. Last year was the renovation. Any chance these negotiations are further along than anyone knows and this could be the major announcement at this years convention. They need to present SOME sort of positive news to keep the fans upbeat. Not that I have any issues with the direction the front office has taken, but many out there do, and when they get loud, it could get ugly.

  • Fastball

    I think FOX just comes in and takes the WGN games and then they simultaneously buy out the CSN contract. It’s easier for Ricketts to force CSN to the table since is an owner even a small percentage owner. Fox can certainly navigate the purchase of this piece of business. They can probably negotiate a hell of a buyout deal on these last 4 years of the CSN deal. It’s a big cash windfall for CSN and they don’t have to provide the service. FOX will then own it all. If FOX doesn’t have the production staff and facilities in place at Wrigley they can take over the existing or simply outsource that piece back to WGN or CSN. Those operations folks would just be outsourced to FOX or FOX just buys them in the deal. Either way I don’t see how Ricketts continues with WGN or CSN in any capacity. It just makes no sense. Clean it up and start collecting checks.

  • ruby2626

    Any idea who negotiated the 2019 deal, has this person or company never heard of an out clause if market conditions change dramatically. Another in the long line of Cub financial screwups. Do we know for sure no such out clause exists?

  • Diehardthefirst

    Ricketts should buy a station and get rid of middleman

  • clark addison

    As a Cubs fan living in San Diego, I’ve been getting my games on WGN and ESPN/Fox/MLB Network when they are show. So I have access to about 75 games a year, which is why I didn’t bother to subscribe to MLBtv. However, I cut the cable this year, because it was stupid to pay for 300 channels when I watch about a dozen.
    So now I’ll sign up for MLBTV and have access to nearly every game on TV, iPad, and iPhone. I think this is the future as more and more people abandon cable. The days of Harry and exclusive national exposure are history. Every team now has national exposure.

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