Are the Chicago Cubs looking toward creating its own streamer with Sinclair?

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The Chicago Cubs is reportedly in talks with Sinclair Broadcast Group to launch a streaming offering, reports The New York Post.

The Cubs and Sinclair already operate Marquee Sports Network, a linear offering that’s available in the greater Chicago market and was envisioned as a way to keep the broadcast rights of games in the Windy City within the corporate family.

Previously, two local stations had split TV rights for Cubs games on local TV and coverage also aired on NBC’s regional sports network.

Marquee offers a full slate of programming, including pre and post game analysis, encore presentations and news-style programs focused on the Cubs and Chicago sports.

When Marquee launched, Comcast’s Xfinity reportedly drove a hard bargain about how much it would pay to carry the network — and that deal may not have every happened. The network almost never made it on Xfinity, according to sources, which is one of the largest pay TV services in the market. The network launched in 2020, though it had limited offerings at the time.

The Cubs previously held a 25% stake in NBC Sports Chicago, but dropped out in 2019 ahead of plans to launch Marquee.

Now, Sinclair and the Cubs appear to be interested in exploring a way to bring its coverage to streaming, presumably as a way to bring content directly to viewers, rather than having to go through pay TV providers.

Post sources say the MLB has expressed concerns over such a direction, even as it wrestles with how to manage its own streaming offering.

In addition to Marquee, Sinclair also operates multiple recently rebranded Bally Sports regional sports networks, which it acquire from Disney which, in turn, bought them from 21st Century Fox when they were known mostly under the SportsNet name. Due to Disney’s ownership in ESPN, part of the acquisition required Disney to sell of the RSNs.

Other major pro sports teams owners in Chicago have stakes in NBC Sports Chicago, including the NBA’s Bulls and MLB team the White Sox and NHL’s Blackhawks, which come with deals to carry select games on the network. The NFL’s team the Bears also have deals to broadcast game on the network.

Through the Bally networks, Sinclair is also reporting exploring options in the streaming arena with other teams it has relationships with across the country.

The Post says that Sinclair has tossed around charging around $18 a month for its streaming service — which is comparatively high considering full fledged streams such as network are about $15 and more limited ones are typically in the $5 to $10 a month range.

However, that $18 a month price tag would assume it can sign up at least 14 of the MLB franchises for the streamer, though it’s not clear if subscribers would have access to content from across the country or if there would be blackouts as in traditional sports TV.

Those deals, along with ones signed with NHL and NBA teams recently, contained language that let it stream the games directly to consumers, which is a strong signal that streaming is somewhere in  Sinclair’s sports future.

Another big concern is Sinclair’s massive amount of debt, the Post notes. The company is carrying over $9 billion in loans with $5 billion of debt labeled as “distressed.”