SBD/June 20, 2014/Media

Cubs Mulling Launch Of Multicast TV Network After Not Renewing With WGN

As the Cubs “sort out what to do" with the WGN-CW portion of their 70-75 TV games in ‘15, the team is “considering an option that is highly unconventional, if not a bit out there: Launching a version of a Cubs network on a multicast station,” according to sources cited by Ed Sherman of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. A multicast outlet is a “sub-channel for local over-the-air broadcast stations” that it is not "considered cable." This would provide the Cubs the “opportunity to start some sort of a team-branded channel” and they would “produce the telecasts and sell and keep all the advertising revenue.” The Cubs reportedly are “eager to start their own network,” but they “can't do it on cable because of terms of their deal with Comcast SportsNet,” which runs through ‘19. A team source said that the team is still “considering many options and isn't close to making a final decision.” Sources said that Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney “isn't eager to sign a deal that would give the Cubs considerably less in guaranteed money, especially at a time when the Dodgers are doing a multi-billion dollar local TV contract.” The Cubs in the multicast arrangement would “incur production costs to air the games; probably in the $25,000-35,000 range per game plus studio shows.” They also would have to “pay a fee for time on a multicast outlet.” Sources said that it seems “highly unlikely the Cubs would earn much in the way of subscriber fees for a multicast station.” The team also would “lose viewers because a multicast station doesn't have the reach of WGN.” The Cubs in addition would have to “negotiate deals one-by-one with providers outside of Chicago in Downstate Illinois, Iowa and Indiana, areas that are considered their local territory” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/20).
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