Today, I had the opportunity, together with some other fine folks in the new media world, to sit down with Chicago Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney to discuss all manner of Cub-related topics.
I asked Kenney about the recently-struck MLB/FOX three-year deal that will allow for in-market streaming of games for fans who are in a market covered by a FOX RSN, and are authenticated subscribers of that RSN. Kenney explained that the deal represented progress in the streaming area, and, yes, the Cubs are working with MLB and CSN to have in-market streaming available for the 2016 season*. They are hopeful that it can get done, though there are some challenges. (Keep in mind, I would add: it took years for MLB and FOX to work out their deal for the 15 markets covered.)
Generally speaking, the Cubs know fans want to be able to stream in-market, and the Cubs want it to happen, too. There is very much a desire to get something done both in the short-term (i.e., 2016 through 2019, during the current broadcast agreements) and in the long-term (i.e. when the Cubs arrange the particulars of their long-term deal).
Speaking of the long-term TV deal, Kenney reiterated that the plan is that, come 2020, the Cubs will have their own cable channel. It’s expected that the Cubs would create that network with a partner (for example, a cable provider or a network).
- The bleachers will be finished next year, except for the bullpens, which are being relocated under the bleachers. The bleachers were about 70% finished through last season, with the biggest area of work left in center field, which was almost untouched last year.
- The home clubhouse will be ready to go for Opening Day, and should actually be finished a while before that.
- There will be some additional signage up in the outfield by Opening Day – at least one – though the particulars aren’t yet available.
- There will be walk-through metal detectors at the park next year (as there already are at most other ballparks, per an MLB mandate). Because of construction, there was a little bit of a grace period for the Cubs, but they’ll be in place for Opening Day.
- The new western gate will probably be finished at some point during 2016, but it will not open until the 2017 season.
- The new office building at the north end of the plaza will also be completed at some point in 2016, and some of the lower level partner tenants – think food/retail/light entertainment type things – could be announced next year.
- The plaza will also include a studio area for broadcast partners – CSN, WGN, ABC, CBS – to do pre-and-post-game. That area will also eventually become the home of the Cubs’ channel for similar productions.
- There have been no surprise hurdles or issues this year with respect to construction.
The video boards were intentionally kept a little light on activity and content last year on the thinking that the Cubs should crawl before they walk, so you can expect to see a little more next season (though still no crazy/intrusive things like a kiss cam).
*(I know that some of you will immediately ask about the ABC-7 and WGN-9 games, but, because they are over-the-air, it’s a little trickier to make that happen. For now, my sense is that it’s just best to hope that the CSN games will receive in-market streaming availability for 2016.)