Two weeks ago, I posted this article noting a report from Bruce Levine that the Cubs were going to, as expected, launch their own TV network with a “broadcast equity partner” beginning with the 2020 season.
Wednesday, that became a bit more official with this announcement from NBC Sports Chicago:
BREAKING: NBC Sports Chicago and the White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks today announced a multi-year media rights deal that provides NBC Sports Chicago with exclusive local, multi-platform media rights to present game coverage of all three teams starting with the 2019-2020 season 1/— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) January 2, 2019
What’s key here is that the Cubs are absent from the NBCS Chicago deal, which makes sense given they are seeking their own RSN.— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) January 2, 2019
In a press release from the White Sox, the number of years this deal will comprise was not mentioned, and it was also noted:
The deal is subject to formal documentation and pending MLB, NBA and NHL approval.
That approval is expected to be given without any issues.
This pretty much confirms what we had heard in mid-December, that the Cubs would be “going it alone” in their new TV venture and not partnering with one of the other teams (there’s a sense that the Blackhawks could have possibly been a good partner).
But since Levine’s report a couple of weeks ago, there’s been nothing stated officially by the Cubs as to who the “broadcast equity partner” would be, though there have been rumors that it might be Sinclair Broadcasting, a company that owns quite a number of local over-the-air broadcast channels in the USA. This Fangraphs article notes some potential issues with such a partnership — and while Sinclair’s political leanings are well-known, many of the issues mentioned in the Fangraphs article have nothing to do with that.
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It seems possible that the Cubs will make an announcement at the Cubs Convention about their new TV venture; if not, they’ll certainly be asked about it at the session that is usually held to update fans on business operations.
In the meantime, Cubs games will continue to be carried on NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-TV and ABC7 Chicago locally during the 2019 season. The total games carried by those channels will be about 150, with the rest on national networks Fox and ESPN. In recent years the breakdown has been about 80 games on NBCSCH, 45 on WGN and 25 on ABC7. The full 2019 regular-season broadcast schedule should be out in mid-February.