Despite pushback from Major League Baseball, Chicago Cubs and Sinclair Broadcasting could be partnering up to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service to allow fans to watch Chicago’s oldest MLB team without a cable or satellite TV subscription, according to a new report from the New York Post. From the report:
In a deal that insiders say could have league-wide implications, the Cubs and Sinclair are angling to launch the new service following a tough round of negotiations with cable-TV giant Comcast more than a year ago, which resulted in capping monthly fees for the Marquee Sports Network, the broadcaster of local Cubs games, according to sources close to the situation.
The Cubs and Sinclair each own a 50% stake in Marquee Sports but a deal has not been finalized with Marquee Sports General Manager Michael McCarthy telling The Post, “we’re always exploring options,” and “there is nothing definite to announce.” MLB and Sinclair declined to comment on The Post’s story.
If the pair launch the DTC service, this could create a huge shift in the MLB, if the other 13 teams Sinclair has broadcasting rights to follow suit. Back in November, it was reported that Sinclair only had streaming rights for 4 MLB teams, however, the MLB has pushed back on the idea of having Sinclair stream games, with the league considering launching their own in-market streaming service.
Due to Diamond Sports Groups, the Sinclair subsidiary which owns Bally Sports, financial woes, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has not mince words when discussing the idea of streaming games on Bally Sports’ future app.
“If you think about what they paid for it, how much debt they have on it, I mean, you think it’s over 80%, it’s a huge number. And that leverage has produced headlines that are more negative,” Manfred said at 2021’s World Congress of Sports.
Shortly after Manfred made those comments, it was reported that MLB wanted a stake in the Bally Sports RSNs streaming service. To shore up their financial issues, Diamond Sports Group received $600M in funding to help them launch the Bally Sports DTC streaming app, which is expected to launch in the first half of 2022.
After receiving the $600 million in funding, Diamond Sports secured digital rights for 16 NBA teams. Back in December, the NHL and Diamond Sports came to a multi-year agreement, which included digital rights for 12 NHL teams.
Sources who spoke to The Post stated that Sinclair plans to charge $18 per month once it has streaming right for all 14 MLB teams who are broadcasted on their RSNs, however, a source familiar with the negotiations thinks that price point is too high. “No one is this high. The only person that pays this is someone deeply passionate about regional sports networks and that is a small subset of fans,” they told The Post.
Industry insiders have speculated that the price for Sinclair’s DTC streaming app will be around $23 per month, which is more than a monthly subscription to ESPN+, Peacock Premium, and Paramount+ combined. All three of those services offer live sports, which may be a cause of concern for Bally Sports if their app ends up being too expensive for most streamers.
Another source of revenue for the DTC streaming app is in-app gaming, which will allow viewers to place bets with partners like Bally while watching the game. “This would be like a picture within a picture,” according to a source The Post spoke with who was briefed on Sinclair’s plans.
Now with a possible deal with the Cubs on the horizon, Bally Sports may try to hit a Grand Slam by securing a deal with the rest of the league to ensure they have enough content before launch day.