The Chicago Cubs plan to start their own television venture when their current agreement with NBC Sports Chicago expires after the 2019 season expires, according to a published report.
The Cubs have hired former MSG Network CEO Mike McCarthy the head its TV effort, according to Chicago radio station 670 The Score, citing industry sources.
Comcast’s NBC Sports Group is a partner in NBC Sports Chicago along with the Cubs, the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago Bulls of the NBA and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, with each team owning 20% since 2004.
“We’re still in negotiations with our team partners and remain fully committed to the sports business in Chicago," NBC Sports Chicago said in a statement.
The Cubs are owned by the Ricketts family, which bought the team from Tribune Co. for $845 million in 2009. The Ricketts has invested in the team’s farm system, renovated historic Wrigley Field, and acquired much of the real estate around the ballpark in order to maximize the team’s revenues. In 2016 the team won the World Series for the first time in more than a hundred years.
The New York Yankees were among the first big-market teams to use their television rights to establish their own regional sports network. The YES Network is now part of 21th Century Fox, but is one the block as Fox sells assets to The Walt Disney Co.
The Yankee deal set off a rush of teams looking to cash in on the cable bonanza. But that trend appeared to come to a head when the Los Angeles Dodgers set up Time Warner Cable Sports Net in 2014 in a deal valued at $8.35 million.
The network later became part of Charter Communication, but has never been fully distributed , reaching less than half of the Southern California market because it was unable to make deals with DirecTV or other cable networks.
It was unclear if the Cubs planned to maintain a partnership with Comcast, the dominant cable operator in the Chicago market.