I’m not exactly sure when the Cubs’ decision to break away from the other Chicago sports teams and start a new regional sports network shifted from “worst-kept secret” to “something that’s starting to happen,” but now there’s a name on it and everything.
Reports from Bruce Levine, the Sun-Times and The Athletic on Tuesday helped flesh out the picture:
*The Cubs are breaking off and starting Marquee after the 2019 season. A partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group was originally reported, which dovetails nicely with the recently revealed Ricketts family email chain, but the idea of a done deal is premature.
*The White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks will return to NBC Sports Chicago on a five-year deal, which is short for the business. Their timeline is swifter because the deal will start in October of 2019, as opposed to spring 2020 for a baseball-only network.
Jon Greenberg’s sources say the White Sox are in a position to benefit, but more because the pie has fewer slices, not because it’s bigger. This move is coming at a time where all three teams are in the dumps, standings-wise and ratings-wise:
Given that a source told us the shorter length of the deal — the teams signed a 15-year deal when the original station, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, launched in 2004 — it wasn’t known if the teams will get any kind of upfront money for a new contract, though one industry source said he would be surprised if they do, considering those teams have ratings issues. Furthermore, the RSN business doesn’t look too rosy across the country, with Disney reportedly struggling to sell the Fox Sports Network stations it got in a deal with Fox.
But the teams owned by Reinsdorf will get a larger chunk of revenues from the station, given that the Cubs won’t be a part of it and that the majority of their games will be on the station, rather than split up with over-the-air WGN. The games broadcast on cable TV are much more profitable for the teams.
The split could be a delicate one for the carriers, whose customers will face higher bills from carrying two networks. And it’s not just two networks, but one with none of Chicago’s common teams. As popular as the Cubs are, there’s a sizable chunk of the viewing area that wants nothing to do with them.
The five-year agreement gives the rebuilding teams a quicker chance to renegotiate after an upswing, or maybe it casts them back into uncertainty faster than usual. Whatever doubts exist about the White Sox rebuild, the future of cable is even harder to project, which is why Major League Baseball has been hedging its bets.
* * * * * * * * *
In other White Sox business, they released their initial attendee list for SoxFest, which is a little over a month away:
White Sox manager Rick Renteria is scheduled to attend SoxFest 2019, along with current team members José Abreu, Tim Anderson, Nicky Delmonico, Adam Engel, Jace Fry, Leury García, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo López, Yoán Moncada, Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sánchez. Fans also can expect to see prospects Micker Adolfo, Luis Basabe, Dylan Cease, Zack Collins, Eloy Jiménez, Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert.
In addition, newly elected Hall-of-Famer Harold Baines, Hall-of-Famers Carlton Fisk, Tim Raines and Jim Thome, as well as White Sox ambassadors Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Carlos May and Bill Melton, will join former outfielder Dewayne Wise, whose catch to protect Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009 is celebrated as the exclusive SoxFest 2019 bobblehead.
What a time to negotiate with three pathetic teams struggling… really happy to see its only 5 years. Maybe in 2023 things will be better.
Doesn’t look like a great deal for the Sox. It’s the end result of choosing not to compete with the Cubs, keeping cronies in the front office, and having an 83 year old owner.
what are the terms?
Who needs terms when we have Marty to simply tell us it’s bad?
To go along with the bolded point taken from Jim’s article, if this were a great deal for the teams it would be longer than five years.
Sometimes the good deal is the contract that is short. If the rebuild goes as planned, the Sox will be the #1 team in town in 5 years and it will be a windfall for them that their contract is expiring at the height of their popularity.
Yeah, also given how the media industry in flux, not sure being locked into some long term deal is better than having flexibility to change as the landscape does.
Wouldn’t be surprised if the deal after this one is some sort of streaming service, maybe in conjunction with Reinsdorf/Sinclair’s Stadium venture.
I probably don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about but wouldn’t it be wiser to negotiate after the Sox sign a Machado or Harper? Or is the front office telling us that Manny Machado’s brother in law is the best they can do?
I doubt signing one player would make much of a difference. A couple winning seasons coming into this contract negotiation probably would have been more of a tailwind.
Yes, if it was only the Sox. The Bulls and Hawks are on a different timeline and they need to have things finalized sooner.
Reading the Ricketts family’s emails gives me immediate relief that they do not own the Sox. (While one hopes Jerry Reinsdorf does not have similar correspondence.)
Yea I would hate to have such a winning team.
Rich people on both sides of the aisle act like rich people. GASP
Sports is about what entertainment value it provides to you, I wish we had the richest ownership possible, absolutely hell bent on winning but maybe thats just me.
Sinclair and the Ricketts’ should be very happy with each other. Lots in common.
Reinsdorf is also partnered with Sinclair through Stadium venture
I’ve seen a few cubs fans excited about the new tv deal as a way to open more money for the team. It seems to me teams are treating the luxury tax as a hard cap, so it will just be a direct wealth transfer to ownership which in the Cubs’ case seems to be used for establishing dynastic wealth.
I’m sorry I clicked on the Ricketts link.
Man…me too. I couldn’t finish reading it.
Ditto. These folks are really impressed with their importance.
Just seems like standard rich guy stuff.
Still disturbing. Reminded me of that chapter in The Jungle when the main character met the drunk rich guy.
standard rich guy stuff is indeed disturbing
open question to the thread: if you were negotiating a TV deal right now, would you rather be representing the White Sox/Bulls/Blackhawks, all crap teams with limited appeal outside Chicago but 12 months of live events, or the Cubs, a very good team with decent nationwide interest but only 7 months of live events?
The three team deal easily. Cubs ratings are falling with little upside. The other teams have all the upside in the world.
I don’t understand this take. While the Bulls and Blackhawks suck right now, they are two of the most valuable franchises in their respective sports and have major national appeal. Both top four in their sports for overall value, both in top two in their sports for attendance, and draw well even while on the road.
I’m with Jason on this topic. Live sports is still king when it comes to cable and advertising. It’s why every month cable subscribers pay almost $6 of their bill just for ESPN. Most cable channels get less than $0.50 per subscriber.
More live sports presents more advertising possibilities. Yes, if teams play well ratings will be high which will draw in a variety of media buyers looking to buy air time. It’s a very cyclical business.
Before everything gets finalized, here is the ownership breakdown for NBC Sports Chicago:
20% – Comcast (they own NBC Universal)
20% – Blackhawks (Wirtz family)
20% – Bulls (Jerry Reinsdorf)
20% – White Sox (Jerry Reinsdorf)
20% – Cubs (Ricketts family)
With the Ricketts family moving on, I wonder when the final details are released if everyone involved gets an additional 5% in ownership? If that were the case, Jerry Reinsdorf would own 50% of NBC Sports for five years. I’m sure that has some benefits.
On the Cubs side, I think there is a lot more resistance to high subscriber fees than there was when the Dodgers signed the SportsNetLA deal, and more options for people who don’t feel like paying $5 more so a select group of superfans can watch Cubs Rainout Theater all winter. Could very well end up in a similar situation to LA, with major carriers simply refusing to carry the channel due to fear of cord cutting. On the other hand, I think Chicagoans in general care a lot more about the Cubs than Angelinos care about the Dodgers, so there might be more pressure on the holdout carriers to carry the network in a low tier bundle. Regardless, nobody’s making $8B on a one-team sports TV channel again.
The carriers in LA didn’t refuse to carry the channel. Most of them just wanted to either put it in a “sports tier” or as a channel a la HBO that you pay extra for. Time-Warner who paid a lot for the Dodgers rights wouldn’t let them carry the channel on those terms.
hence “carry the network on a low tier bundle.”
But you’re assuming the pressure for carrying the channel on a low-tier bundle is coming from the customers when the pressure is coming from the channel owner. Big difference. If my sister saw her bill go up $10 a month because a new Cubs channel she doesn’t want is included, she’ll be calling Comcast and telling them to either get rid of the channel or cancel the cable TV package entirely. The people who want the new channel won’t complain about having to pay to get it – although they might complain about having to pay for the “old” channel they won’t be using anymore.
Disagree re: the Dodgers. They’re huge here and it’s much more of a one team market than Chicago (the Angels are an hour away and have even less historical relevance than the Sox). Plenty of fans are still upset because of the whole Time Warner debacle.
Also of note, the main cable company in this area is the one that has an ownership stake in the Sox/Bulls/Hawks network. They’ll have every incentive to stick the Cubs one on some special tier or a la carte thing while putting their own channel on more or less basic.
There’s some places that have RCN or WOW, but Comcast is the biggest.
50% seems a little low considering he’d be providing about 2/3 of the main programming.
And his ownership groups are getting 2/3rds of the revenue given to teams. Comcast gets its 25% rents.
The Bulls are also one of the worst run franchises in the NBA as well. I doubt their tv viewership is off the charts right now. A lot of their brand value was a byproduct of the Jordan era.
Things can change fast in the NBA. Markannen + Dunn + Zion would be must watch TV.
Huh? Mayyyybe if they get Zion, but I can’t see fans excited about tuning in for Dunn (a bad player) or Markannen (a good but unexciting player) amid a clusterfuck of bad coaching and bad management.
Meant Carter, not Dunn. Dunn does indeed suck.
Dunn doesn’t suck. He’s just not a cornerstone.
That brand value still has huge upside though, unlike the other two. The Bulls have one of those huge dormant followings, and are a global brand because of those 90s teams that continues to this day. And in that sport, a single pick can be franchise changing.
The Bulls have struggled to be relevant for 20 years. I don’t think Pax and Gar Forman are capable of making that franchise changing pick.
I used to enjoyed NBA when Michael Jordan used to play…then I stopped watching basketball. Are you telling me that since Jordan retired, the Bulls have been terrible? That loooong?
I still saw a lot of Bulls gear in Paris when I was out there.
Lebron doesn’t have the same cache as Jordan.
In the metro now at midnight and staring at a Bulls hat. Funny that.
D Rose shoes are still a top 5 seller in China. Like, now.
No, they have had some good seasons since then. But mostly bad.
Jimmy Butler suggests otherwise. They’ve done all right for themselves getting quality players even with lower picks, it’s the dumbass moves otherwise that always kill them (trading LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas, selling Jordan Bell, signing Wade and Rondo, and on and on).
Yeah, drafting has actually been really good when compared to their peers, it’s the other stuff. 5th in a 30 team league in winning pct from 05-15. Hard to paint that as a disaster.
the bulls have led the league in attendance for 8 straight years, given that im sure their viewership has to be at the least pretty decent i would imagine….their gate receipts alone pay like 70% of the player expenses according to forbes
Cubs have nationalized brand, so if the audience is national, they get the nod. If the audience is regional, go 3 team.
Also, a question for anyone who knows, does national brand matter when we are talking about a local sports network? It’s not like people from LA or New York will be watching NBC sportsnet Chicago. They will be watching from mlbtv or other streams. Isn’t a NBC sportsnet Chicago or Marquee or whatever local channel benefitting only from local viewers?
So Manny Machado’s interview/visit at Yankee stadium lasted 1 hour and a half…that’s rather brief, and I read on it that they are not meant for each other.
I would hope they just aren’t willing to go past $300 million, and that the Sox are.
Off-topic: We hear stuff about the Sox interest in Machado, Harper, Grandal but nothing about interest in pitchers. They’ve lost 2 starters from the September roster and have so far only replaced one. We assume that the 5th starter is going to be one of Covey/Stephens/Fulmer/et al. Has there been any rumblings about the Sox going the “opener” route for the fifth spot, a la Tampa or the post-season Brewers?
Plenty of talent in pitching in the free agency to fill a 1 year spot cheaply or relatively cheap. I wouldn’t worry too much on this.
im actually totally fine with them throwing all available resources at position players
the 4th/5th starter situation is kind of moot for 2019. In 2020 kopach and cease provide likely more value then anyone else when considering the fact they wont be making any money. You also cant rule out a few of the other young guys becoming options if they bounce back or progress.
By 2021 the system should be backed up and loaded… and if the dreams of a dominant Rodon, Lopez, Kopach, Cease, Giolito hasnt worked out they will probably have a lot of prospect equity to make a move for a front line pitcher.
MLB’s announcement of a new, safer process to get Cuban players to the states included statements of joy by Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada.