Chicago Cubs TV deal update: nothing to report.
Against that increasingly surprising backdrop – Spring Training games are just five months away – we’ve got even more context for the Cubs’ TV ratings, overall, this season over at Forbes. In short: woof.
We already knew that the ratings were bad, but even if you go by the raw number of households that watched the average Cubs game on CSN last year – keeping in mind that the Cubs’ market is much larger than most other teams – the Cubs were the 7th least watched team in baseball last year. That’s U.G.L.Y. (you ain’t go no alibi). The timing, as we’ve discussed, is particularly bad for the Cubs as they try to negotiate both a bridge deal for their WGN games (about half the total games) from 2015 to 2019, and then the full slate after 2019. Instinctually, we know that Cubs ratings will skyrocket when the team is good … but it would be nice to actually be able to prove that when it matters.
The results for the Cubs are particularly rough when stacked up against other teams in baseball, who are seeing historically excellent local ratings. You can read the Forbes piece for more on that if you’d like to be a little bummed out.
These kinds of results, coupled with the very late hour at which we stand in the Cubs’ TV rights process, make you wonder if the Cubs will be even more inclined to just go ahead and start their own network now, placing the former WGN games on multicast channels. It’s not an ideal solution for various technological and revenue-certainty reasons, but the Cubs might not have a better option at this point. Sure, there’s more risk, but at least the Cubs retain the upside in that scenario, if the team’s ratings do take off. Further, they’d be in a very strong position after the next five years to partner with a cable network on a new RSN, having developed expertise in the area.