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Cubs TV network expected to launch in 2020

Club is still in negotiations; another baseball team may be involved
January 19, 2019

CHICAGO -- The fans who filled Ballroom VI at the Sheraton Grand Chicago on Saturday afternoon did so hoping to finally get the details on the Cubs' upcoming regional sports network. The team confirmed that one is in works and then asked for a bit more patience when it comes

CHICAGO -- The fans who filled Ballroom VI at the Sheraton Grand Chicago on Saturday afternoon did so hoping to finally get the details on the Cubs' upcoming regional sports network. The team confirmed that one is in works and then asked for a bit more patience when it comes to all the fine print.
In his annual panel, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney announced that, yes, the team will indeed be launching its own network in time for Spring Training 2020 and the following season. Right now, though, the team is still in negotiations with an undisclosed partner and Kenney hinted that another baseball team might be involved with the channel.
"We have a really good sense of who our partner is," Kenney said. "Our transaction is a little bit [complicated]. We're involved in a multi-dimensional negotiation. It's not just us and a partner. It's us, our partner and multiple others, so there's just some moving pieces. ... There might be other teams involved. Not local teams."
Multiple reports in December indicated that the Sinclair Broadcast Group was the front-runner to partner with the Cubs on the venture, but Kenney would not address that aspect.
"We're not talking about who the partner is," he said.
Kenney teased that more will likely become known within the next month and added that the Cubs' hope is to have its network -- rumored to be called Marquee -- up and running in time for next spring. That would allow Chicago to broadcast Cactus League home games at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz.
It has been known for several years that the Cubs were exploring their own network, but the process moved closer to reality earlier this offseason when the White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks announced an extension with NBC Sports Chicago. The current 15-year contract that includes those three teams, as well as the Cubs, expires after 2019.
"We are going to have our own channel," Kenney said. "We've 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. So, I would say at the moment, I don't have anything else to say about it other than you'll have a Cubs channel. It will launch in 2020. We will do it with a strategic partner. And the details of that will be more apparent in probably the next 30 days."
Worth noting
• During one portion of the business operations update, Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs Julian Green took the stage and was critical of Ald. Tom Tunney, who is seeking re-election in the 44th Ward (where Wrigley Field is located). After the session, Kenney was asked why the team felt the need to inject politics into the annual update for fans.
"Because I get a ton of email on it," Kenney explained. "Because it impacts us. Like Julian said, we want a level playing field. We want to be treated like every other team in town. We want to get treated like every other bar in town. We want to get treated like every other restaurant in town. If all that happened in our city was the Cubs were treated just like everyone else -- no better and no worse -- we would have no issues."
• The Cubs dedicated a lot of time to explaining the reasoning behind embracing mobile ticketing rather than paper tickets. Kenney stressed that going digital can help strengthen security, get fans into Wrigley Field faster and make things more convenient when it comes to transferring tickets.
"It's not comfortable for some to go to mobile ticketing, and we get that," Kenney said. "Everything is a little bit of a trade-off. There are huge advantages to digital ticketing, especially from the security perspective."
• The Cubs will have three new clubs, an overhauled seat-numbering system and many revamped suites and concession stands as part of their latest renovations phase. Kenney noted that there would still be work to complete next offseason, such as updating the main concourse floor, enhancing the pressbox and addressing lighting outside the ballpark.
• Kenney said the Cubs will again make a pitch to Major League Baseball this year in an effort to secure another All-Star Game. Wrigley Field has not hosted a Midsummer Classic since 1990.
• The Cubs announced that single-game tickets are scheduled to go on sale on Feb. 22. In the meantime, ticket packages can be purchased at Cubs.com/packs.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.