The Chicago Cubs are in negotiations with Sinclair Broadcasting to launch a streaming service that would permit cord-cutters to watch the team’s games without a traditional pay TV subscription, according to a New York Post article.
The Post writes that Major League Baseball executives are leery of the proposed streaming service because they fear that Sinclair does not have the financial backing or technical capacity to make it successful.
Sinclair is aiming to launch a Bally Sports standalone app for cord-cutters this spring and the company has secured the digital rights to NHL and NBA teams in the Bally markets. However, Sinclair has only signed four MLB teams for the app and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed doubt about whether the company can pull it off.
Also complicating the MLB-Sinclair situation: MLB has expressed interest in starting its own in-market streaming service, the Post writes, adding that the league has ‘dragged its feet’ on discussing wider digital rights with Sinclair.
“The stakes in the dispute could be high,” the Post states. “The Cubs, which own Marquee Sports in a 50-50 partnership with Sinclair, are among the most valuable franchises in baseball. If the team begins broadcasting its games directly to consumers, it might set a precedent for other franchises to quickly follow suit, according to sources close to the situation.”
Marquee Sports Network, the pay TV home for the Cubs, did not deny the Post report when asked by the newspaper.
“We’re always exploring options,” Marquee Sports general manager Michael McCarthy told The Post. “There is nothing definite to announce.”
MLB and Sinclair declined to comment on the Post report.
The newspaper says the Cubs streaming service could cost as much as $18 a month. It’s unclear if Sinclair and the Cubs are targeting this season for a launch, but the ongoing labor struggle between MLB and the players could complicate the timing.
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— Phillip Swann