As 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.