The three teams and NBC Sports Chicago will have an equal ownership stake in the new deal, which will begin in October 2019, after the current deal between the Bulls, White Sox, Blackhawks, Cubs and NBC Sports Chicago expires.
The Cubs are splitting apart on their own venture, which is expected to begin in February 2020, when spring training starts to open a new season. The Cubs are expected to have a broadcast equity partner in their new venture, sources told Levine.
It was expected that the Bulls, White Sox and Blackhawks would go their own way after the Cubs split off from NBC Sports Chicago (owned by Comcast/NBC Universal and previously called Comcast Sports Net Chicago) after 2019. The Cubs currently own 20 percent of NBC Sports Chicago, the three other teams own 20 percent each and Comcast/NBC Universal owns the other 20 percent.
The most important words in the link above are “broadcast equity partner.” This is what I had hoped the Cubs would do, find a company in the broadcast/media industry to partner with on their new TV venture rather than completely “go it alone.”
Who is this partner? We don’t yet know. It could, for example, be Comcast/NBC Universal. NBC Sports Chicago already operates a “Plus” channel that’s carried on local cable/satellite systems and that could become the Cubs channel. Or it could be another major player in the media field: Disney or even Amazon. Or, maybe MLB becomes the partner, as there have been recent rumors that MLB might be a potential buyer for the Fox RSN’s that are currently up for sale.
The linked article at the top of this post states that an announcement on the new NBC Sports Chicago deal is expected “soon,” so we should also soon know about whatever Cubs TV deal is being planned.
As always, we await further developments.