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Cubs Remain Determined To Launch TV Network

Jason Barrett

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In recent years, Cubs’ owners, the Ricketts family, have raised ticket prices, added large video boards to Wrigley Field to capitalize on advertising revenue, and next up for the 2016 World Champions might be their own television network.

The Cubs’ current contracts with NBC Sports Chicago, ABC-7 and WGN-9 expire after the 2019 season. Since purchasing the franchise in 2009, the Ricketts family has looked toward the 2020 season as a target for launching their own TV network.

“We have a big passion for controlling our own destiny,” said Crane Kenney, the Cubs president of business operations. “It’s sort of like conversations in the real estate market. We like controlling our own destiny. You start adding partners and it becomes a lot more complicated.”

Some fans may not be excited about the need to purchase a more premium cable package to access Cubs games when they get their own network, but a TV network deal could potentially fund the player payroll and allow GM Theo Epstein to compete with the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers for premium free agents.

“(Bulls and White Sox Chairman) Jerry Reinsdorf has been an amazing partner, as has Comcast,” Kenney said. “It’s been a very successful thing. If it made the ultimate sense, it would (make sense to stay). But I’d say at the moment we’re 80 percent inclined to do it on our own.”  In their current contract, the Cubs own a 20% stake in NBC Sports Chicago, formerly Comcast Sportsnet Chicago.

This past season the Cubs also streamed four games on Facebook and are not opposed to a deal with a digital company. Considering the Facebook broadcasts were not heavily promoted, the Cubs were very satisfied with the results.

“These are conversations we’re having today, that’s the next phase of the test,” said Kenney. “One of the questions we’ve been asking is, what if you sold OTT rights separate from your linear package?”

With the growth of digital media companies, and their willingness to invest in sports programming, the Cubs see potential in a partnership with Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and others.

“There’s a strategy where widely distributed over-the-air television broadcasters can reach an incremental audience by distributing on a platform like Facebook,” said Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships. “Facebook reaches a different audience. It’s an audience that’s on the go and accustomed to spending more time on their phones.”

The Cubs are locked into their current TV contracts for 2018 and 2019, but for a major market franchise as popular as they are, it ‘s logical for them to control their TV rights on their own network in the future.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

Fox Officially Unveils NFL Broadcast Teams

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In what has been considered a formality for some time, Fox today officially unveiled Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, and Tom Rinaldi as their number one NFL broadcast team Monday. Burkhardt and Olsen were elevated to Fox’s top booth after the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN’s Monday Night Football earlier this year.

There were some reports that Drew Brees could have been a possibility to join the network, but those discussions fell apart.

The network’s other teams include several familiar faces to football fans:

#2 team: Joe Davis, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Pam Oliver
#3 team: Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth, Kristina Pink
#4 team: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake
#5 team: Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin
#6 team: Chris Myers, Robert Smith, Jen Hale

Olsen’s jump to the number one team with Burkhardt is a formality until the retirement of Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl winner will ascend to Fox’s number one booth upon his retirement, whenever that may be.

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Ryan Clark, Mad Dog Get Into Heated Argument on ‘First Take’

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

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Former Pittsburgh Steeler, and current ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark and recent Radio Hall of Fame inductee Chris “Mad Dog” Russo squared off on Monday’s edition of First Take, with a heated exchange taking place between the two.

After a discussion about Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas meandered into a discussion about whether Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp would be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he never played another game, Clark said about Hall of Fame voters “they must be voting like you (Russo) vote for the Heisman, where you just vote on whoever the hell you want based off the fact that they play quarterback”.

Russo quickly took exception to the perceived slight.

“Ryan, hold on now,” Russo said, in a louder manner than normal. “You said something, now I’m going to comment. I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born.”

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

“You said something that wasn’t right,” Russo said.

“Lower your voice,” the former Steeler interrupted again.

“I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born,” Mad Dog reiterated, with a lower volume. “30 years.”

“I don’t care about that,” Clark rebutted.

“You’re saying I’m voting for the Heisman and saying I don’t deserve a vote. I’ve been voting for 30 years!”, Russo began to raise his voice again.

“I never said you don’t deserve a vote,” Clark replied before clarifying he disagrees with Russo’s sentiment about the college football award being only awarded to quarterbacks.

It’s not the first time Russo has clashed with First Take contributors. A discussion with J.J. Reddick went viral earlier this year after Reddick told Russo previous NBA players played with “plumbers and firefighters”.

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Sports TV News

Todd Frazier Joining ESPN Little League World Series Booth

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

Ricky Keeler

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When people talk about 11-year MLB veteran Todd Frazier, some of the things that are usually mentioned on broadcasts usually is that he is from Toms River, New Jersey and that he played in the Little League World Series in 1998 (won the championship). Now, Frazier will have a bigger connection to the annual event in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

As first reported by Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati EnquirerFrazier will be in the TV booth (remotely) for ESPN for this year’s Little League World Series. He made his broadcast debut on Monday morning during one of the New England region semifinals between Maine and Massachusetts. 

Frazier told Nightengale that he wants to use this event to begin his second career in the broadcasting industry.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially for the Little League World Series since I’ve been a part of it. I know it and understand it really well. Kind of kickstart my second career here.” 

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

The Little League World Series begins on Wednesday, August 17 and ends on Sunday, August 28. It will be broadcasted on ESPN and ABC.  

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