Sometimes you get into your own bubble and you assume everyone else automatically knows the things bouncing around inside your head. That, of course, is poor form when your job is to put words on a screen so that people can read them.
So, then, in case I am mistaken that the following assumption was not already widely known, here’s something Chicago Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney revealed this morning on The Score, which is the Cubs’ new flagship radio station:
Crane Kenney again confirms #Cubs will launch own TV network in 2020 after other TV deals expire.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) November 11, 2015
The Cubs’ various TV broadcast rights agreements – CSN, WGN-9, and ABC-7 – all run through the 2019 season, and the team has been in the process of negotiating a new, consolidated rights agreement for a while now, which will fundamentally change the team’s financial means. That process will continue in the coming years, as it involves an incredibly complicated series of issues (not the least of which is the difficulty in protecting against the erosion of the cable subscription model in an era of streaming … when streaming rights are controlled not by the various MLB teams, but are instead controlled at the league-wide MLB level). It’s very likely that a deal will be struck long before 2019, but it may not actually be implemented until 2020.
While it was always technically possible that a cable network like CSN could simply pay the Cubs an earth-shattering number of dollars for the rights to continue broadcasting Cubs games beyond 2019, that’s no longer the model for large market teams. Instead, most commonly, we’ve seen large Major League teams pair with a cable provider or a cable network to create a new regional sports network (RSN), which would then operate as its own, new cable station*. If you’ve followed the TV rights coverage here at BN over the past several years, I hope this is not a foreign language to you.
So, then, Kenney’s revelation is not a surprise, but it’s a fun moment of clarity for fans who want to look forward in a more specific way to a “Cubs Network.” You can start to dream about what content, besides Cubs games, you might see on such a channel (though I suspect, to fill the air space, it won’t all be Cubs-related). “Smoothies with Jake”? “The Eddie Vedder Variety Hour”?
*(The revenue models for these setups vary – sometimes the RSN then pays the team huge rights fees, sometimes the team simply shares in the channel’s revenue, sometimes it’s a combination of both. For our purposes today, it doesn’t really matter. It means a lot more money for the Cubs.)