In 2015, the Chicago Cubs finished with the third best record in baseball, and that certainly drew some attention.
Now, here in 2016, the Cubs are the best team in baseball, and it’s drawing even more.
Indeed, according to an article from Craig Edwards (FanGraphs), no team in baseball has experienced a greater positive change in MLB team TV viewers from 2015 to 2016 than the Chicago Cubs.
And although we haven’t checked in on the TV stuff in quite some time, I’m sure you remember how distinctly important those ratings will be to the next TV deal … and how important that next TV deal will be to the team.
If you recall, the Cubs’ current deals are both set to expire after the conclusion of the 2019 season. And although that’s still three years away, the details of the next deal are very likely being negotiated and arranged as early as now. In fact, at the most recent Cubs Convention, Business President Crane Kenney reiterated his belief that the Cubs are very likely to start their own network at the conclusion of the current TV deals and that such a network would take at least two years to stand-up ahead of the 2020 launch. So, yes, the ratings right now could have an enormous – perhaps, disproportionately so – impact on those negotiations.
Fortunately for the Cubs, things are looking pretty good.
According to Edwards, the Cubs’ overall TV ratings in 2016 are ninth best in baseball. The Kansas City Royals lead the pack by a very healthy margin, while the Cardinals, Pirates, Orioles, and Tigers round out the top five. But if you’re wondering how several smaller markets like Pittsburgh and Baltimore can lead larger ones like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, remember that ratings do not equal viewers per game. Because by that measure, the Cubs have had third highest viewers per game (in the first half of the season), behind only the New York Mets and New York Yankees.
But the most encouraging statistic remains the the Cubs hugely positive year-to-year trend, mentioned at the beginning of this post. From 2015 to 2016, the Cubs lead the way with the biggest increase in viewers per game, just ahead of the Mets and the Rangers. Both of those teams also had nice seasons in 2015 and very big expectations in 2016 (like the Cubs), indicating that the improved performance and subsequently sky-high expectations likely played a prominent role in the increased viewership.
If the Cubs are planning on negotiating a new TV deal in the next year or two, this is really good news. The team is extremely talented right now, and projects to be very good over the next few years (at least), as well. If the wins keep rolling in, the viewers may keep lining up, and the Cubs may be able to swing a mega-deal in the range of the Philadelphia Phillies, if not the Los Angeles Dodgers.
You’ve seen first hand what those kind of deals can do to a team’s budgetary limitations (or lack there of), so this remains a hugely important topic to follow. I don’t suspect we’ll hear much about it for some time now, but consider this a positive step.