What New Chicago Sports Networks' Setup Means

The Cubs are starting Marquee as the others remain with NBC Sports Chicago.

Bruce Levine
December 21, 2018 - 11:24 am

Dreamstime

(670 The Score) With the news that the the Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox will partner with NBC Sports Chicago beginning in October 2019 as the Cubs split off on their own path with a new regional sports network, the next logical question is how does that impact the consumer?

If you look closely at your cable bill, you may see a section termed something like sports television package. The price that's charged by your cable provided for the present NBC Sports Chicago package that includes the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks is $8.50 per month.

The teams make money in multiple ways. NBC Sports Chicago initially pays them a rights fee to carry their games. After that, the teams and NBC Sports split up advertising sales equally. 

2019 will mark the last season of the current partnership between the four teams and NBC Sports Chicago. In it, both the Cubs and White Sox will receive $750,000 a game for cable broadcasts. That's a hefty sum, but the hope for the teams is that number increases in the future. Games carried on cable produce more than three times the revenue of those broadcast by over-the-air carriers like WGN and local ABC-7. Because of that, the expectation is you'll see few games offered on local over-the-air channels after the 2019 season.

The Cubs will form their own regional sports network, which will be called Marquee, according to reports. They're expected to partner with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which will provide the distribution. The Cubs' plan is to broadcast all of their games on their regional network, save for the nationally televised games that are selected, sources said. The Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox may have 10 to 15 games available for local stations.

The price for cable carriers to have both NBC Sports Chicago and Marquee will likely total around $13 a month, per sources. That would mark more than a 50-percent increase over current charges to see all the teams. That increase would then be handed down to the consumer.

There could be a major challenge for the new/revamped regional sports networks. The possibility exists that a cable provider may reject the idea of being charged bigger fees to carry the same teams as before. In that case, the provider could choose not to offer a channel to the subscribers. 

The Dodgers have been entangled in such a mess in recent years. The result is that more than half of the homes in the southern California area haven't had access to watching Dodgers games other than those carried on national television, according to reports. 

Cord-cutting also continues to become more popular, particularly among millennials. That trend sometimes causes providers to think more heavily about the cost of the channels they carry.

So if your provider doesn't make a deal with the new regional networks, how would you find Cubs and White Sox games? It will be tough.

The MLB Extra Innings package is a quality product, but it's focused on out-of-market fans, as the team(s) in your city are blacked out. So the best hope would be a new streaming option being available, but it's the regional networks that would have to dictate that answer in conjunction with what's best for them.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.​​