The Chicago Cubs are having sporadic talks of launching their own television network, similar to what the New York Yankees have with their own YES Network, come 2020. The franchise currently has a 20-percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The remaining equities include ownership by the Chicago White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks.
The Cubs’ deal with CSN Chicago runs through 2019 when each game broadcasted by the network will earn the franchise $750,000, whereas now the figure is at $675,000-per-game (CBS Chicago). While having a network will certainly net the Cubs more of an income if all goes well, challenges such as filling air-time when games are not in action will arise, especially in the offseason. In addition to that is the rise in online streaming. If the network cannot produce an income from its advertisers and viewers, then offering premium features such as online streaming can inhibit the network from prospering.
Benefits for the Cubs include being in one of the largest media markets in the country. The Cubs could also leverage their brand and fan base to competing nationally with the likes of the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, two teams that consistently are capable of affording high costs to assure a valid attempt at producing a quality product on the baseball field. Despite the idea of the Cubs having their own network, team president Theo Epstein remains curbed in regards to spending big despite the money in Major League Baseball being used excessively by clubs.
“If you really think about the money that is available in this industry, it can be mind boggling. That is especially compared to what teachers and doctors make for a living. On the face of things, it doesn’t make sense. This industry is a kind of a closed ecosystem. We just set that aside and understand what our system is and … what our situation is. You want to avoid being tied into having too many big, long contracts. That can lead to dead money on the books.”
— Epstein (CBS Chicago)
While Epstein echoes the thought of big, lengthy contracts leading the dead money, it is easier to say all this now before you get the taste of all that extra cash when the club is a player or two away from going all the way. However Epstein has been loyal to the Cubs’ player system — choosing to have depths of talent at all levels. The franchise looks to remain stable for years to come given its young ball club and its talented farm system. Add a successful television network to that, then the sky’s the limit for the Chicago Cubs organization.