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Cubs TV Future Factors Into All Business Decisions

Jason Barrett

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Telecasting nonstop programming from Kyle Schwarber‘s tape-measure home run to Ron Santo clicking his heels after victories is a vision that runs deep in the minds of Cubs executives.

“We look forward to the day we have the rights to start our own channel,” Chairman Tom Ricketts said recently at the Cubs Convention.

But as profitably tempting as operating their own regional sports channel may be — as the Yankees can attest through the YES Network — there are many variables that have the Cubs keeping an open mind for 2020 when they can control television rights for their games.

“We’re studying it to death to look at pros and cons and weigh the risks of launching on our own or launching with a partner,” Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ business president, said.

The structuring of contracts for free agents Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist suggests the Cubs will have deeper financial pockets in 2019 and beyond, which also will allow them to retain talents such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell in their arbitration years.

“The money is still out there,” media analyst Jeff Kagan said. “(The Cubs) brand is recognized around the country, and now they’re viewed as winners.”

But Kenney realizes that grossing millions of dollars that can bankroll the player payroll easily doesn’t guarantee a new contract will be a success. Because of distribution issues, less than 40 percent of the Southern California audience has TV access to Dodgers games.

And the Pacific-12 Network hasn’t reached a deal with DirecTV to carry its football games for the last four seasons.

Kenney acknowledged that the Cubs are continuing to negotiate with Comcast SportsNet Chicago, in which they hold a 20 percent ownership stake. Two years ago, the Phillies and their local Comcast affiliate agreed to a 25-year, $2.5 billion contract.

“(But) as we have conversations, which are on-going with all sorts of partners, if somebody offers us something dramatically better, we’ll of course look at it,” Kenney said. “But what we control is the idea of launching our own network in 2019.”

But the biggest decision, should the Cubs choose their own network, is selecting the right business partner. The YES Network has achieved success through the 80 percent ownership backing of 21st Century Fox. The Dodgers’ 25-year, $8.35 billion contract is considered an anomaly because Time Warner has absorbed all the financial risks.

 

Kenney said the Cubs would need a two-year setup before televising games in 2020 if they choose to operate their own channel. But they won’t be rushed into making a deal soon.

“Maybe aside from changing (baseball) leadership, this is the biggest decision we’ll have,” Ricketts said. “So we have to get it right.”

To read the full article visit the Chicago Tribune where it was originally published

 

Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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Sports TV News

Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’

“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Greg Olsen

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are on tap to call Super Bowl LVII in February, and Olsen told Front Office Sports he has the confidence to announce the game with no hesitations.

“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”

Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.

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