Cubs' Kenney Indicates Team Could Start Its Own Media Entity After Current Deals Expire
Comments from Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney show the team "could start their own media network" after their contracts expire with local/regional TV partners NBC Sports Chicago, WLS-ABC and WGN-TV following the '19 season, according to Mark Gonzales of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Kenney on Saturday said, "We have a big passion for controlling our own destiny." Gonzales noted that statement "likely indicates the Cubs are looking to walk away" from their 20% share of the NBC-owned RSN, a share "similar to the ones owned" by the White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks. Kenney said of the current ownership arrangement for NBC Sports Chicago, "Jerry Reinsdorf has been an amazing partner, as has Comcast. It's been a very successful thing. If it made the ultimate sense, it would (make sense to stay). But I'd say at the moment we're 80 percent inclined to do it on our own." He added that the Cubs have been "looking forward to a major TV deal since the Ricketts family bought the franchise from Tribune Co." in '09. Kenney: "We've never lost focus on this because it's such a big (deal) and a game-changer for us. And two years ago, Theo Epstein ... said the next TV deal could present a 'paradigm shift.'" Gonzales noted a potential new media setup for the Cubs "would come just in time for next winter's potent free-agent market." It also "wouldn't hurt the Cuvs' quest to secure the young talent already on their roster." Kenney said, "We don't want to go into the 2019 season without a partner. So something probably happens this year" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/14).
MOVING PARTS: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer noted the pending AT&T-Time Warner and Disney-Fox mergers "might affect the Cubs' ability to optimize bidding for broadcast and streaming rights." Kenney: "The encouraging signs are this: more bidders in the marketplace than ever, which is good for an auction; our ratings are obviously up, which is good for us. What is interesting, though, is you're seeing Disney, who wants control of local (rights), who never really played in the local (rights business), buying the Fox regionals." Kenney added that streaming platforms such as Amazon and Facebook are "part of a market for Cubs rights that has grown dramatically just in the past year." He said that the team "needs to wait until at least one of the mergers is finalized to take the next step toward seeking bids for potentially multiple distribution deals" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/14).