The Cubs’ TV deal negotiations remain ongoing, as the team looks to secure not only the best rights deal, but also the best platform for distributing their games.
The team’s broadcast rights are free agents, so to speak, after the 2019 season, and team president Crane Kenney continues to negotiate those rights with a range of possible partners. Speaking with ESPN, Kenney reiterated his most recent stance that the Cubs are still “most likely” to form their own, new regional sports network. Although doing so would almost certainly require partnering with an existing cable/satellite provider or television network for distribution, there are still no details on that front, nor on what a Cubs channel would look like for you, the end user, in this new era of streaming.
Kenney did mention that the one existing regional sports network to which the Cubs are currently tied for a slight majority of their games – NBC Sports Chicago, formerly CSN Chicago – has been a great partner, but sticking with them may not be the way the Cubs elect to go (either on a new network or a traditional carry-our-games-for-a-fee deal): “We’ve really enjoyed our relationship with [the Blackhawks and Bulls at NBC Sports Chicago], but our fate is probably a little more in our own hands, as those two teams worked so closely together at the United Center.” As best I can surmise, the implication there is that some of the efficiencies that come from operating a network for teams that play at the same facility are lost when translated to a baseball team in another ballpark.
At last check, the Cubs were tentatively expecting to get a deal in place – whatever form it takes – by the end of this calendar year, so they can have a little runway in advance of the launch. For that reason, and because the shape of the Cubs’ next TV is so critical for revenues and fan access/enjoyment, I will continue to track this story closely.
For much, much more on the state of the Cubs’ TV rights in the current, transitional era, I’d strongly encourage you to read this more comprehensive piece.