Chicago Cubs paving their own path in television after 2019 season

Theo Epstein, Tom Ricketts (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Theo Epstein, Tom Ricketts (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have been shrewdly managing their television contracts in recent years in the hopes of having financial flexibility and sole ownership of their own network down the road.  That day is now very, very close.

Yogi Berra once said, “a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” For the Chicago Cubs and media outlets, those words the Yankees legendary backstop ring especially true this week. Gone are the days where WGN had every Cubs game all season long. Gone are the days when they even carried most of the games.

Most importantly, gone are the days when the Cubs want to share their nickel or their dime with any broadcasting partner.

Welcome to a new age- well, not quite yet. But, it’s coming- maybe as soon as November 2019. This new age will exist not at the behest of traditional media outlets or partners of said outlets, but solely based on the whims and under the control of the Chicago Cubs. The network, while no details have been announced, would no doubt make the Cubs much more profitable and turn their nickel or dime into a quarter or even a dollar.

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As most fans have known for a few years now, the Cubs recently chose their media partners and contracts with deals specifically to end after the 2019 season. Once that happens, it has been assumed that the Cubs would start their own network, probably with the full support of most of the fan base who yearn for more things Cubs. At that point, announcers, technicians, cameramen, and myriad other employees would essentially become Chicago Cubs employees, rather than NBC, Comcast, WGN or ABC employees.

No more shared contracts. No more changes to pregame personalities or postgame shows. Everything would be consistent, everything would be 100 percent Cubs. And while the Cubs do have a stake in NBC Sports Chicago, they don’t control everything on the station, which no doubt limits what the franchise wants to do and how they want to sell their product.

What would this new network look like? Would they call it the IVY Network? Would it be akin to the YES Network the Yankees launched to much ballyhoo? My guess is yes and no. The Cubs will want to maximize profits and financial flexibility, but they are also shrewd about their product and the fans who love that product. Perhaps they would even partner with a streaming service like Amazon, Hulu or Netflix,? Or maybe even the new Disney platform set to come out in… you guessed it, 2019.

Game days on their new network would be easy – there would be a ton of original content hours before the game and hours after the game sandwiched around a three-hour game. It’s what would happen overnight or in the offseason that interests me the most about this possible Cubs channel.

Infomercials selling socks that massage your feet or gutter glue that can keep a boat afloat? Old Cubs games and perhaps a Home Run Derby from years past? Would the Cubs somehow incorporate the Blackhawks or Bulls in their channel? Would they televise the Cubs affiliate games so fans could see all of the prospects coming up? There is so much time to fill in a day of television programing, and only 162 (or possibly about 20 or so more with playoffs) game days.

There’s no doubt the Cubs will want to showcase their brand to a broader audience, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to sacrifice their current lovable fans by making bad decisions or selling out on bad ideas. If the Cubs do, in fact, create their own network in a similar fashion to the YES Network, you can guarantee they have done and will do their research, choose savvy partners and employees, and keep the money wheel churning.

Next. No way is Maddon on the hot seat. dark

The Cubs brand has never been more recognizable or profitable and the franchise will want to bank on that popularity. Since 2009 when the Ricketts family bought the Cubs for $900 million, the teams’ valuation, according to Forbes, has skyrocketed to $2.9 billion.

Announcing a new network would only increase that valuation, and it would lead to the ability to have more payroll flexibility and buying power for Theo and Jed to work their magic for years to come. Hopefully, they’ll be shrewd with those nickels and dimes.