Chicago Cubs: Landing a television deal brings great risk and reward
In 2019, the Chicago Cubs will be free of all television contracts and can pursue their own network. While it’s clear that a priority for team execs, there is a great risk with having their own station.
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have built a team that, in theory, should be a contender for years to come. But with every breakout star likeKris Bryant
, or free agent additions likeBen Zobrist
–there needs to be the deep pockets to bring them to Chicago or to keep them there. New jumbotrons help, but unless you’re okay with paying more for tickets and food–which we already do–there needs to be another avenue.
While the TV contract timelines have been offset, the Cubs have continued to do what the can to make it work. WGN still carries some games, Comcast Sports Chicago has a solid helping. Any given day you can probably find the Cubs on television, but maybe not always in the same place. In 2019, the Cubs will control the rights, and that’s where the plan will get interesting.
The conversation from the top has always been about creating their own network. But with that, there is great risk. The baseball season is long, but what do you do for the other 21 hours a day, or the other four months of the offseason? Many of us can talk and report on baseball all year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would lend itself to great television.
"“We’re studying it to death to look at pros and cons and weigh the risks of launching on our own or launching with a partner,” Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ business president, said."
The idea of launching with a partner seems to make the most sense, but that can be a gamble as well. The Blackhawks and White Sox have a partnership while Jerry Reinsdorf–chairman of the Bulls and White Sox–controls a good portion of their interest. They could possibly link up with college sports, although that would entail a lot of discussion as well.
"“(But) as we have conversations, which are on-going with all sorts of partners, if somebody offers us something dramatically better, we’ll of course look at it,” Kenney said. “But what we control is the idea of launching our own network in 2019.”"
The Diamondbacks have a 20-year, $1.5 billion deal with Fox Arizona. That helped land Zack Greinke. The Angels have a fairly lucrative local TV deal which afforded them the opportunity of signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Like most contracts, those two were backloaded and totaled $331.5 million. Near impossible without that TV deal.
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Eventually, players like Bryant, Schwarber and Russell to name a few will need to be paid. The Cubs are aware that time will come, and are looking to have the funding in place to make that a smooth transition. We can’t simply expect the Cubs to keep pumping out new prospects each season like they have. Can we?