Forget about silly mascot, real Cubs story is about TV future; Is Fox a player?

I have to assume the Cubs knew the roll out of their new mascot would be destroyed in the new media world. Keith Olbermann said it came with a proverbial “Kick me” sign. Then he did six minutes wasting poor Clark on last night’s show.

Posted for your viewing pleasure.

However, there’s another story taking place on the Cubs front that will have far more impact on the team’s future than the new mascot. The team currently is renegotiating its TV deal with WGN, which expires after this season.

In a Chicago Tribune column in July, I wrote that I heard Fox wasn’t a player in bidding for the Cubs rights at that time. I also said that could change.

Apparently, it has. Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago reports that the Cubs are in talks with Fox in a deal that could lead to new Cubs network in 2020.

Mooney writes:

Behind the scenes, sources say the Cubs are in talks with Fox about their broadcasting future, working on a deal that would end the WGN connection that built the team’s national brand and potentially lay the groundwork for a second regional sports network in Chicago.

The Cubs are locked into WGN for one more season, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago has exclusive cable rights through 2019. So one concept being discussed is a bridge deal that would put X-number of games on a local Fox affiliate during that five-year window, before taking the full schedule to a new channel in 2020.

At the very least, the presence of Fox gives the Cubs some leverage in the Chicago market. The team needs to figure out a way to cash in on the TV bonanza currently occurring for local TV rights. The Philadelphia Phillies recently signed a $2.5 billion, 25 year deal with Comcast Sports Net ($100 million per year)  that also includes an ownership stake in the station.

The Cubs are a bit hamstrung because they are negotiating a package for only half of their games; their cable deal with Comcast Sports Net Chicago runs through 2019. However, the Cubs have to strike now and for the future. Who knows if this sports cable TV bubble will burst?

So let everyone else laugh about the mascot. If you’re a Cubs fan, pay close attention to the much bigger story.





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