The Chicago Cubs television broadcast contact with NBC Sports Chicago expires in 2020 and the team is exploring selling OTT streaming rights, separate from a new linear TV contract. The Cubs partnered with Facebook (FB) this past season on a test run, simulcasting 4 games, and came away pleased with the results. The 4 games averaged 222,000 unique viewers, with first 3 averaging 259,000 (no marketing was done for the 4th game). For comparison purposes, the 2016 WS Champion Cubs averaged just 156,000 viewers for their local TV broadcasts (35% increase from ’15).
Howie Long-Short: The next round of TV contracts (for all leagues/teams) may not dramatically rise in value as the television audience continues to shrink, but the aggregate for live broadcast distribution rights will keep professional sports revenues on an upwards trajectory. Selling OTT rights separate from linear rights is a no-brainer as it provides a wider audience and another lucrative source of revenue. The structure of these contracts is going to be interesting to follow. Zuckerberg has already expressed that unlike traditional broadcast rights deals, he’s far more interested in rev-share partnerships than he is in paying out billions in guaranteed rights fees.
Fan Marino: Cubs Manager Joe Maddon was ejected from Game 1 of the NLDS for arguing an umpire’s call on a play at the plate. Maddon wasn’t upset with the rule itself (preventing a catcher from blocking the plate without possession of the ball), but the interpretation (the trajectory of the ball put the catcher in the runner’s path to the plate). Maddon went on to explain that not all rules are good rules, using Chicago’s unpopular soda tax ($.01/ounce) as an example. Perhaps Madden has a point. 9 days after implementing the tax, lawmakers voted to repeal it. As for the Cubs playoff series against the Dodgers, Justin Turner hit a 3-run walk-off home run on Sunday night to give the Dodgers a 2-0 series lead.