As has been reported, and is now official: NBC Sports Chicago will live on without the Cubs:
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) January 2, 2019
This means that the Cubs must proceed on their own, which, to be clear, they were already long planning to do. They will be starting their own regional sports networked – rumored to be in partnership with Sinclair Broadcasting on the distribution side of things. See that post for the latest on the Cubs deal. It’s possible that the network could pick up other local sports broadcasting rights, but the major pro sports will be on NBC Sports Chicago and the national NFL deal.
The Cubs’ rights with NBC Sports Chicago (and WGN-9 and ABC-7) carry through the 2019 season, and then it’s off to the new network. What’s not yet entirely clear is what happens to the Ricketts Family’s 20% stake in NBC Sports Chicago, which came with the purchase of the Cubs. It’s possible they’ll hold onto it, but the economics of RSN ownership are such that it’s much, much more palatable to own a stake in the network that airs your team’s games, so I would think that 20% piece would be more valuable to the White Sox/Bulls/Blackhawks owners than the Cubs owners. We’ll see. That’s kind of a side story.
Tentatively, I would expect the Cubs to announce their new network at the upcoming Cubs Convention later this month. It is rumored to be called Marquee, and it will come with all the pros and cons of a new regional sports network at a time when cords continue to be cut and MLB is fighting about local in-market streaming.