Too bad the Cubs didn’t have as much to say about their TV plans at the Cubs Convention as they did their opposition to Tom Tunney’ re-election as Wrigleyville’s alderman.
Take the ballclub’s vocal opposition to Tunney into consideration the next time there’s a debate about how sports and politics never should mix.
The Cubs’ argument is Tunney is an incumbent who represents special interests in the 44th Ward, home to Wrigley Field, but apparently not the Cubs’ special interests.
“We don’t whine because we don’t get what we want,” Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications and community affairs, said in an on-stage conversation with Crane Kenney, the team’s president of business operations. “We whine because there’s not a level playing field.”
At least there’s no question about it being whining.
Fans who spoke up at the business operation’s question-and-answer session were more concerned with difficulties spurred by the team’s shift to mobile ticketing.
The special interests of those without smartphones and the leaders of bus tours seem to be going unmet by the new technology despite Cubs officials talking up its virtues.
Kenney explained he didn’t yet have big news to share concerning the Cubs establishing their own TV outlet, but he did drop little details here and there with fans and in a post-presentation scrum with reporters.
This is the long-anticipated Cubs channel, said to be called Marquee, that will make its debut in time to televise all of the their 2020 home spring training games.
Cubs Productions, which makes video segments for the team, will be part of the mix and Kenney said some talent already has been hired.
Although there have been reports the Cubs will work with the Sinclair Broadcast Group on the venture, Kenney would say only that details will be known “in probably the next 30 days.”
“The landscape is changing almost daily,” he said. “Huge groups like the Fox regional sports group, 22 different networks being sold.
“What happened as we declared our independence and actually became a stand-alone network, quite honestly, we got a seat at a much larger table. So we’ve been involved in conversations not locally but more nationally on how we’ll launch our channel and who we’ll launch it with.”
Federal regulators overseeing Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets have ordered Disney to sell Fox’s regional sports networks within 90 days of closing, which is expected this quarter.
Sinclair reportedly was among those bidding in November, and the Sports Business Journal has reported the second round is due by the end of this month.
“We’re involved in a multidimensional negotiation, not just us and a partner,” Kenney said to reporters. “It’s us, our partner and multiple others. So there’s just some moving pieces and if you follow the breadcrumbs, I believe, there’s a date coming up that will be important for all of us to watch.”
Kenney confirmed that the “multiple others” he referred to are other baseball teams that might be involved. He didn’t say which.
Earlier a fan from Michigan complained about Major League Baseball restrictions that kept her from seeing some Cubs games. Kenney shared his own frustration, explaining baseball’s divvying up of geographical territory for teams, giving each team preeminence in its own zone.
Kenney said Cubs territory bumps up against the Tigers, Brewers, Cardinals and even the Reds and Indians. He said the Cubs have asked permission to make their home TV feed available in neighboring areas, but MLB has held firm.
“Now after the last convention, and this is true, I forced a meeting among the Midwest group — among the Cardinals, the Brewers, the Tigers, the Twins actually are in our group — and we all … said to baseball we don’t care,” Kenney said.
MLB still didn’t budge.
But all those teams — the Tigers, Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Indians and Twins — have games on Fox regional sports channels up for sale.
Whether that’s more or less than a breadcrumb remains to be seen.