The Cubs have been talking for years about establishing their own broadcast network, a reality that is fast approaching when their existing partnerships expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season. But exactly how they’ll do it, and with whom, is still up in the air. That uncertainty could even be the driving force behind their apparent lack of desire to add much to the payroll this winter.
While the Cubs could choose to go it alone with the new broadcast deal, they could also partner with an existing regional sports network or a media giant like Disney. And that’s where a new wrinkle comes in. Disney’s recent purchase of television and movie assets from Fox included the acquisition of 22 RSNs, all of which are now being spun off as a contingency of the deal.
The first round of bidding for those networks, among which is the Yankees’ YES Network, includes titans like Apollo Global Management, KKR, The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and Tegna. But the most interesting name of all is Amazon, the ubiquitous online mall that continues to expand its reach into our homes and wallets.
Fox itself was not active in the first round of bids but is believed to get involved when the second round begins prior to the end of the year. Given its 80 percent interest in the YES network and ties to those RSNs, it seems like a no-brainer that Fox would be among the favorites as bidding progresses.
But back to Amazon, which continues to climb the charts of the world’s largest corporations and now sits at 18th on the Fortune 500 with reported revenues of $178 billion. Their $3 billion in profits were up 27 percent over the previous year and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. You think Amazon might be interested in partnering with a brand like the Cubs on a broadcast/streaming deal?
I’ll be honest here, I’ve got no idea how that would work and whether the Cubs are wanting to be involved with a “partner” that so dwarfs them in scope and scale. But doing so could alleviate some of the concerns that the streaming bubble may have burst, costing the Cubs tens of millions in potential revenues. Or maybe I’m way off base and there’s no way for any of this to work out.
If nothing else, this is an interesting topic and one that is sure to factor in the Cubs’ decisions to some degree over the coming weeks and months. Even if Amazon is not part of the final equation, this bidding process should serve to shape the playing field and set the ground rules for what the Cubs are trying to create. So, uh, stay tuned.