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Cubs Remain Determined To Launch TV Network

Jason Barrett

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In recent years, Cubs’ owners, the Ricketts family, have raised ticket prices, added large video boards to Wrigley Field to capitalize on advertising revenue, and next up for the 2016 World Champions might be their own television network.

The Cubs’ current contracts with NBC Sports Chicago, ABC-7 and WGN-9 expire after the 2019 season. Since purchasing the franchise in 2009, the Ricketts family has looked toward the 2020 season as a target for launching their own TV network.

“We have a big passion for controlling our own destiny,” said Crane Kenney, the Cubs president of business operations. “It’s sort of like conversations in the real estate market. We like controlling our own destiny. You start adding partners and it becomes a lot more complicated.”

Some fans may not be excited about the need to purchase a more premium cable package to access Cubs games when they get their own network, but a TV network deal could potentially fund the player payroll and allow GM Theo Epstein to compete with the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers for premium free agents.

“(Bulls and White Sox Chairman) Jerry Reinsdorf has been an amazing partner, as has Comcast,” Kenney said. “It’s been a very successful thing. If it made the ultimate sense, it would (make sense to stay). But I’d say at the moment we’re 80 percent inclined to do it on our own.”  In their current contract, the Cubs own a 20% stake in NBC Sports Chicago, formerly Comcast Sportsnet Chicago.

This past season the Cubs also streamed four games on Facebook and are not opposed to a deal with a digital company. Considering the Facebook broadcasts were not heavily promoted, the Cubs were very satisfied with the results.

“These are conversations we’re having today, that’s the next phase of the test,” said Kenney. “One of the questions we’ve been asking is, what if you sold OTT rights separate from your linear package?”

With the growth of digital media companies, and their willingness to invest in sports programming, the Cubs see potential in a partnership with Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and others.

“There’s a strategy where widely distributed over-the-air television broadcasters can reach an incremental audience by distributing on a platform like Facebook,” said Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships. “Facebook reaches a different audience. It’s an audience that’s on the go and accustomed to spending more time on their phones.”

The Cubs are locked into their current TV contracts for 2018 and 2019, but for a major market franchise as popular as they are, it ‘s logical for them to control their TV rights on their own network in the future.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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