According to a report from the Tribune, the Cubs could make an announcement this week concerning the team’s new television contract.
The Cubs exercised a clause in its contract with WGN TV last fall to prevent an option from kicking in that would have locked the Cubs in its current TV deal with WGN through the 2022 season. The Cubs are under contract with Comcast SportsNet through the 2019 and have been exploring options to broadcast the games that were previously aired on WGN through the 2019 season. The Cubs are looking to sync the contracts to expire at the same time in order to own the broadcast rights to all of the team’s games in order to possibly launch its own network in 2020.
Robert Channick provided an update on the Cubs negotiations and options for the team’s television rights for 2015 and beyond with WGN’s contract with the team expiring Sunday. According to the report, the Cubs “are exploring everything from a private equity partnership to a new regional sports network, but a long-term deal may not be imminent.”
The Cubs are exploring short-term solutions, including WGN, but even if the games end up staying on WGN-TV, it does not mean those games will be broadcast on WGN America.
The team is looking to increase revenue with the new television contract. The Cubs reportedly receive $500,000 per game from Comcast SportsNet and $250,000 per game from WGN. According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter last week, the Cubs are looking for twice the amount from WGN, or around $500,000 per game.
Ed Sherman thinks the Cubs will sign a short-term extension with WGN and continue the team’s relationship with the network through the 2019 season.
Cubs TV Rights Options
According to the report from the Tribune, “the team is in negotiations” with TPG Capital, a Texas-based private equity firm with “deep roots in sports and entertainment” that would partner with the Cubs to monetize the team’s broadcast rights.
A report surfaced in January that the Cubs were talking to Fox Sports about the team’s TV rights. But according to the report from the Tribune, those talks never progressed. Fox does not appear to be an option for the Cubs.
The Tribune reported that Root Sports is a potential partner. Root Sports is “owned by a subsidiary of DirecTV” and has “regional sports networks in Seattle, Denver and Pittsburgh and it’s looking to take over Comcast SportsNet Houston.” AT&T’s pending acquisition of DirecTV “may make Root a bigger player in the regional sports network game.” If the merger is completed it would “create a combined subscriber base of nearly one million households in Chicago – 590,000 for DirecTV and 391,000 for AT&T – guaranteeing clearance if an RSN were to be launched.”
Comcast SportsNet does not have first right of refusal in its contract with the Cubs for the games not currently broadcast on the network. Due to the programming on Comcast SportsNet, it was believed the network would not be able to air the games currently carried on WGN and WCIU.
According to the Tribune report, “The network may be able to strike a deal to air the displaced WGN games over the next five years, as part of a back-end arrangement to create a second regional sports network.”
Cubs Streaming Network
Crane Kenney has mentioned the possibility of the Cubs streaming the games as an option in the past, and according to the Tribune, the team appears to be exploring the possibility again. But streaming games within a local market cannot be done right now. Because of the way MLB Advanced Media is structured, the local market would be blacked out. The Cubs could start streaming its games, but that would likely have to wait until 2020.
The Cubs have also explored multicast options as a short-term solution. But it is doubtful the Cubs have the time it would take to set-up the multicast broadcast this close to the start of the 2015 season.
Stay Tuned …
- Full Report from the Chicago Tribune
- Full Report from Ed Sherman
- Full Report from The Hollywood Reporter
- Report: Cubs Looking Into Multicast Options for TV Rights – June 20