Cubs TV derby could be nearing finish line

Cubs TV derby could be nearing finish line

There are some rumblings out there that the Cubs could be closing in on that long rumored TV deal.

However, like anything Cubs, it's complicated. That's a kinder phrase than the one I heard yesterday to describe things.

I received indications that Fox Sports is feeling good about their chances of swooping in and taking over the WGN portion of the Cubs TV broadcast rights. The feeling relayed was that an announcement could even be coming soon.

There are a lot of moving parts here, however.

WGN is not completely out of this just yet. There was a deadline of December 31 that was extended. The two longtime partners are still talking. Another source has always painted the picture that WGN would have a much better shot at keeping their TV relationship going with the club rather than a radio deal.

However, I mentioned back in the summer, the Cubs were eyeing a bigger TV picture by 2020.

I was informed back in the spring by a television executive that Comcast will make a strong play for the Cubs entire TV broadcast rights. The Cubs are currently locked into a cable non-compete with Comcast until 2020. Out of the four clubs in town that partner with Comcast, the Cubs hold the biggest share. Comcast is planning to silo off an additional channel dedicated to Cubs games in a potentially larger agreement.

CSN's Patrick Mooney recently reported Fox as the favorites to make this type of deal happen. I had heard the possibility of a Fox earlier as well. Yet, the preexisting deal with Comcast made more sense to some.

Fox is making a huge push again to be a major player in the Sports market with the launch of Fox Sports 1. Having a team like the Cubs would allow Fox a major presence here in Chicago. It may cost them. Some speculate Fox could lose money on this deal until the 2020 season, a sacrifice for a long term view.

Sound familiar?

The plan after WGN is potentially out is for a local Fox affiliate to pick up those games until 2019 (the rest of the games will stay on Comcast Chicago), then all games will migrate to the Fox owned regional sports net (possibly named Cubs Net) in 2020.

We should find out where the Cubs land with both the TV and radio deals no later than opening day, possibly sooner.

As if it will be that simple.

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  • Who gets to pick the announcers? Has it been the organization or WGN/Comcast?

  • In reply to historyrat:

    I can't see any scenario where Len isn't the guy. I'm sure it's written in.

  • Tom, has there ever been any talk from the actual giant Tribune corp about partnering with the Cubs to create this Cubs-only network? I'm not a crazy person who needs the Cubs to be on WGN, I want them to get the max deal for a network. But I suddenly thought about how the Tribune is a giant media company that has their hands in everything from newspapers to TV stations and is now getting into original programming on WGN America. Or are they still not a big enough company to compete with FOX or NBC?

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    I'm sure if Comcast or WGN made more sense for that, that's where they will do it. Maybe Fox just has more to offer in that case.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Yeah I had just never heard any mention do Trib corporate. Obviously Comcast is backed by NBC/Universal and Fox is Fox, so even though Trib is a large company the other two are much larger. Again, I just want the most $$$ for Cubs

  • Great article Tom. Love your Cubs insider blog.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Thank you.

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