It’s been in the offing for, what, 10 years? So while it’s not a surprise, this is more confirmation that the Cubs’ own regional sports network is coming:
Breaking news -Sources tell me the White Sox – Bulls and Blackhawks will partner with NBC Sports Chicago on a new regional network starting in Oct of 2019 .An announcement of the agreement will come soon . The Cubs will have their own regional network with new broadcast partner.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 18, 2018
To be sure, it is still technically possible that the Cubs could sell their rights – which are up after next season – to another network that broadcasts sports in Chicago, but NBC Sports Chicago was the most obvious partner. The Cubs’ owners, together with the other sports team owners, jointly owned NBC Sports Chicago with NBC. But, with the Cubs bolting for their own network, that particular iteration of the RSN was going away, and now a “new” NBC Sports Chicago will be formed to continue carrying the other teams’ games.
As for the Cubs, we’ve been closely following their future rights situation, which will likely come in the form of a new cable network in partnership with a cable or content provider. The Cubs will then “sell” their broadcast rights to that new network, in which the Ricketts Family will hold an equity stake. That’s how these team-owned RSN deals have tended to go in the recent past. Then, that network charges cable and satellite providers a fee to carry the channel, and those providers make money so long as they keep getting subscribers.
That model, of course, has suffered in recent years as more and more consumers cut the cord. It would be less of a problem if individual teams controlled their own streaming rights – where the eyeballs have long been going – but MLB controls all of the streaming rights, and they are currently negotiating how to make sure the RSNs can still get value from in-market streaming. Without that, the value of the Cubs’ rights are going to be dramatically depressed.
Query how much the holdup there is impacting the Cubs’ current thinking on spending and their financial situation …
UPDATE: The Sun-Times tonight also reports on the NBCS Chicago news, while adding that the Cubs’ Network will be called “Marquis” (though I reckon that’s supposed to be “Marquee”), and will be in partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest local TV station operator in the US. It has been reported as one of the suitors for the FOX regional sports networks that Disney is spinning off.
There’s a lot, lot, lot more to get into with this, but I don’t want to jump the gun until it’s a little more official, given the extreme complexities involved.
UPDATE 2: This is why we wait:
Breaking news -The Chicago Cubs are denying they have a deal in place for a new regional network with Sinclair broadcasting . Industry sources say Sinclair is certainly a front runner to become a partner .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 19, 2018
Given that things have to be in place very, very soon for an RSN to actually be in production next fall, I expect more details soon.