What to expect from the Cubs new cable network? Part 3

by - Columnist -
Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports
Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports

In 2014 the Dodgers launched SNLA, in conjunction with Spectrum cable, to much fanfare and huge projected revenue numbers. It was expected that this new network would put nearly $8.5 billion into the coffers of the Dodgers, allowing them to be very active buyers in the free agent market.

Like the other networks, they were charging the non-Spectrum providers to carry the broadcasting. Initially, they were charging $4.50 per subscriber to carry the games and other broadcasting. Unlike the other cities, the remaining providers banded together and said no thanks, thus leaving nearly 70% of the greater Los Angeles area without Dodger games. The Dodgers then lowered the fee to $3.15 but still no takers.

This past year the Dodgers won a lawsuit against AT&T and Direct TV for spearheading the collusion in the stand-off against Spectrum and SNLA. However, the battle still has not been completely resolved as no other provider currently carries the Dodgers except Spectrum in Los Angeles.

Earlier we mentioned the cottage industries popping up for those who refuse to pay the fees associated with watching your favorite team on cable. One way to skirt this is to buy the MLB baseball package. This costs you $130 for the season, and you get the added benefit of seeing all the teams. However, there is one issue if you are in the local market and that is that the home games are blacked out, primarily because MLB figures you can see it on local cable.

You can also purchase an a la carte package via a streaming service like YouTube and others for various fess depending on what you want to add and it likely will be a bit cheaper than having the full cable service. However, like the issue above it does not fix the home game problems.

Enter a product called UnBlock. This allows you to bypass the blackouts by tricking the provider into thinking you live somewhere else. It costs around $30 for six months plus $5 month for fees, plus, of course, the $130 MLB package. (CubsHQ.com does not endorse the use of this or any other product like it.)

So, what does all this mean for the Cubs fans and Cubs TV?

The broadcasters likely won’t change as they are employees of the Cubs, so you will continue to enjoy Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. The studio team is hired by Comcast so good-bye Kelly Krull and the entire studio group, probably, unless they are hired by the Cubs. Finding the right channel will be the next issue since in some markets HD channels are scarce.

It is hard to believe that launching this new network will not include some issues also. There has never been a launch without something getting in the way of fans viewing. The cost to providers and viewers has yet to be announced, and this will be the number one issue for sure. Are fans willing to pay an additional $20, $30, $50, $80 month to see the Cubs?

How will it be offered via streaming, a significant growth area for viewers? Will MLB figure out how to get around the blackout issues currently for local markets? If not, this will be a significant frustration for fans. And if you buy into the cable package will you get streaming when you are out of town and want to see the Cubs play. Also, the blackout applies if you have the streaming package and you are in say St. Louis and the Cubs happen to be playing the Cardinals. You can’t see it for the same reasons we have already outlined. This needs to be addressed.

While it is exciting to think that the Cubs will be on the same channel for every non nationally televised game and you don’t have to send a search party looking for where they are on a given night, there will be some start-up issues you can count on that. It is also a little bittersweet to think the days of seeing the Cubs on good old WGN are over forever.

The expected revenue the Cubs will realize will help them to continue to be significant players in free agency, and, just as importantly, help them to keep the core guys they have. They do have to keep an eye on history as they launch this new phase and take lessons from the others before them, especially the Dodgers mess, and make sure they have thought everything through.

Live from Wrigley Field, it’s your Chicago Cubs, television network.

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