Cubs Exploring Direct-to-Consumer Service, Team President Confirms
By Jon Lafayette
The Chicago Cubs are looking at a direct-to-consumer streaming service that would make games available to fans who don’t subscribe to cable or satellite TV, a team official said.
The team wants to get the service ready for the 2023 season, but Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, told the Chicago Tribune that issues concerning Major League Baseball, distributors, pricing and technology all must be overcome.
The Cubs are partners with Sinclair Broadcast Group in Marquee Sport Network, the regional channel that carried Cubs games. Sinclair is planning to roll out direct-to-consumer apps for its Bally Sports regional sports networks that carry baseball during the first half of this year.
“The ability to just freeform, bring wall-to-wall Cubs coverage to our fans [with Marquee Sports Network], that was always the dream,” Kenney said. “The question then is: how do you go deeper?”
Kenney said that in addition to streaming game telecasts a Marquee app would also let fans buy tickets and team merchandise.
“There’s a bunch of different vertical businesses that you can build alongside just the video production,” Kenney said. “We want to make sure it’s as robust as it can be.”
Major League Baseball has been a leader in streaming technology, but local territorial rights issues have hamstrung making games available online to areas just outside the Chicago broadcast and cable markets with blackout rights.
“One of the great solutions should be solving the blackouts,” Kenney said
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has balked at Sinclair's direct-to-consumer plans, arguing that Sinclair might not have enough rights to mount a service. There have also been reports that MLB could be working on its own streaming service.