CHICAGO — The regional sports network model is being tested in Major League Baseball.
Since the summer, multiple major league teams lost their local media rights deals when RSNs pulled out of the market, resulting in MLB taking over the game broadcasts and creating financial uncertainty in 2024 and beyond. The shifting media market has coincided with the Chicago Cubs getting Marquee Sports Network’s direct-to-consumer product off the ground.
Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney told the Chicago Tribune he was pleased their DTC product encountered almost no technical glitches. Kenney said the Marquee DTC option beat their planned number of subscriptions by 20% since it launched in July.
“We saw growing subscriptions each month, and that’s the interesting thing with DTC as opposed to cable,” Kenney said. ”Typically cable subscribers are not turning their cable service on and off monthly based on their programming choices. This is very easy to do (with DTC), so you can watch based on the success of the club and the attractiveness of the channel.
“As more people sign up monthly and then some people drop off ... we have pretty ambitious goals for this season.”
The Cubs plan to include March spring training game coverage at no extra charge for fans who sign up for Marquee’s regular-season DTC option.
Ticket sales are the top driver of revenue followed by media rights, corporate rights and sponsorships. A strong season ticket base helps create revenue certainty. While business operations and baseball operations are independent entities, they rely on each other to fuel success.
“I don’t think (president of baseball operations) Jed (Hoyer) cares whether we have concerts, football games, hockey games or golf, like we did last year, as long as we’re generating revenue,” Kenney told the Tribune. ”And in many ways, I don’t care if Jed builds a great team through player development, international free agency or trades. He lets us run our business as well as we can, and we do the same there.
“On the other hand, a great product on the field gives us the chance of selling more tickets, engaging more corporate partners, generating better ratings on the air. And the vice versa of that is when we generate more revenue, (Hoyer) can put more money to work on, for instance, our pitching and hitting lab they’re building in Arizona, scouting, player development, free agency.
“So we’re incredibly dependent on each other, but we kind of operate in silos.”
The Cubs added 2,000 new full-season ticket holder accounts in the offseason. Single-game tickets go on sale Feb. 23.
“That’ll be the next sort of big moment for getting a decent line of sight into our revenues for the year,” Kenney said.
Sportsbook still waiting on gaming license approval
The DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field has been open for months; however, the Illinois Gaming Board has yet to approve the Cubs for a gaming license.
The team hopes to receive the license by the NCAA basketball tournaments in March, Kenney said, which would align with the beginning of the baseball regular season. The Cubs initially filed for the license in June 2023.
“The state moves a lot more slowly than we hoped, but there are signs that they’re moving and we’ll get the license soon,” Kenney said. “Their inquiries have nothing to do with our connection to a baseball stadium.”
Ryne Sandberg statue to be unveiled this summer
Sandberg will fittingly join his fellow bronzed Cubs Hall of Famers on a date that became synonymous with his name.
The newest Cubs statue in Gallagher Way will be unveiled June 23 on the 40th anniversary of “The Sandberg Game.” On that date in 1984, Sandberg memorably went 5 for 6 with game-tying home runs off St. Louis Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter in the ninth and 10th innings of the Cubs’ eventual 12-11, 11-inning win.
As he did with the other Cubs player statues, sculptor Lou Cella is creating Sandberg’s.
The Cubs aren’t revealing yet whether Sandberg’s statue will feature him hitting or fielding, but the nine Gold Glove awards on his Hall of Fame resume might be tough to overlook for inspiration.
Cubs to raise money with Stand Up To Cancer
When MLB holds its annual Stand Up To Cancer day July 21, the Cubs plan to use baseball’s long-standing relationship to help raise money for charity.
A benefit in honor of legendary radio personality Lin Brehmer, who died of cancer in January 2023, inspired the idea. In conjunction with the Stand Up To Cancer event, WSCR-AM 670’s Danny Parkins will host a 24-hour telethon.
“We all probably have lost friends and family to cancer,” Kenney said, “and we’re going to probably make this a tent pole of our mission going forward to really work on this for this year and probably the future.”