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Cubs Optimistic About Plans For TV Network

Jason Barrett

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Saturday night’s Chicago Cubs loss to the Mets averaged 7.9 million total viewers on TBS, the largest audience the network has ever had for an NLCS Game 1. In fact, the game was the most-viewed program on all of TV — broadcast or cable — for the night, according to Nielsen.

Cubs executives say the club’s ratings success shows their competitive young playoff team is ready not only for prime time but also the planned launch of its own regional sports network five seasons from now.

“It really sets the stage for a launch of the Cubs-only network (for the 2020 season), when all of these core players will be in their prime, and our expectations for on the field performance will be just as good as it is today,” Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said Friday.

The Cubs opted out of a longer-term agreement with Tribune Media’s WGN-Ch. 9 two years ago, restructuring TV deals to sync up expiring broadcast and cable rights after the 2019 season, when the team will look to launch its own regional sports network.

Kenney said the team’s strong performance gives it a “tail wind” as its discussions with four potential partners are ongoing, with an announcement expected no later than 2018.

The current contracts reduced WGN’s portion of the schedule to 40 games, while ABC-owned WLS-Ch. 7 picked up 25 games. Comcast SportsNet Chicago — a regional sports network launched in 2004 by Comcast partnering with the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls — carries the bulk of the Cubs schedule.

National cable channel WGN America dropped local sports this season, ending nearly four decades of beaming Cubs baseball to far-flung places across the country.

There are indications that the prices that cable subscribers are willing to pay for local sports may have peaked with the Los Angeles Dodgers deal. For two full seasons, a majority of Los Angeles-area viewers couldn’t watch Dodgers broadcasts because other cable and satellite operators refused to pay a premium for the regional sports network.

The broader trend of cord cutting continues to gain traction, with pay television services losing 625,000 subscribers in the second quarter, and more declines projected ahead, according to SNL Kagan. Sports are the most expensive component of the cable bundle.

ESPN charges $8.80 per subscriber, the most of any national cable network, according to SNL Kagan. But ESPN lost 3.2 million subscribers in just over a year, according to Nielsen, as viewers dropped cable or downgraded to less expensive packages.

To read the full article visit the Chicago Tribune where it was originally published

 

Sports TV News

Ray Didinger Thought NFL Films Aas Joking When Approached About Upcoming Special

“I’ve always contended that NFL Films could make anything interesting, and they actually managed to do that with me. So that’s the ultimate proof of it.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Philadelphia media icon Ray Didinger has a career story worth telling, and that’s why NFL Films will be focusing on it for an upcoming edition of NFL Films Presents…

Didinger, who worked for more than two decades at NFL Films working his way up to the role of senior producer, told Dom Giordano on 1210 WPHT on Tuesday that he was actually surprised when producer Chris Barlow approached him with the idea.

“When NFL Films told me they wanted to do this, I thought they were joking,” Didinger said. “When (Barlow) sent me the email and said we want to do a show about you (and Tommy McDonald), I thought he was just pulling my leg.”

Didinger stated that he was fortunate to have the chance to have his story told. He’s looking forward to fans being able to check out the show, which airs at 12:30 a.m. on Friday on FS1.

“It really turned out well,” he said. “I saw the rough cut of it, and it’s really neat.”

“NFL Films, they are the state of the art in sports cinematography there’s no question about that,” he added. “I’ve always contended that NFL Films could make anything interesting, and they actually managed to do that with me. So that’s the ultimate proof of it.”

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Sports TV News

Kay Adams: Pat McAfee Has Built ‘The Dream’

“it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”

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Many in sports media respect what former NFL punter Pat McAfee has accomplished in his media endeavors. You can add FanDuel TV host Kay Adams to that list.

“I’m just blown away by the success and by the leverage he has,” Adams said on the My Other Passion podcast. “It is uncanny, it is aspirational, and it is self-made, so it is a beautiful thing. I — of course — watch what he does. I don’t want to be just like him but I do think he is so disruptive.

“He has such a chip on his shoulder. It drives him but I almost wish I could see it relieved a little bit. He’s thriving, he’s happy, and I think the thing that sticks out to me about him is that he’s truly grateful. Truly is grateful for everything he has, his opportunities. He’s worked his ass off for it.”

Adams pointed to McAfee’s recent spat with the NFL over use of the league’s logos as an indicator of not only his success but his influence in the sports landscape.

“He is true to himself but he mostly leads with gratitude, which I think is the epitome of success. But he’s out there show you what can be done. He’s the first, but will he be the last to have that sort of platform? That sort of swing? What he does with the NFL the other week, I’m paying attention to that.

“Because I want to see: is the NFL going to bend the knee to Pat McAfee? Does the NFL care what he says? But it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”

The NFL did eventually “bend the knee” and reversed course on limiting McAfee’s use of league trademarks.

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Sports TV News

John Skipper: Bob Iger’s Return Won’t Effect ESPN

“If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”

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There have been many questions about what Bob Iger’s return to Disney will mean for ESPN, but former ESPN President John Skipper believes it won’t change much.

Skipper pointed to Iger’s relationships with powerbrokers in the sports world as a positive, and also believes that the “streaming wars” will be won by those who hold the rights to live sports.

“As a moat, to get the pay-TV fees and to get people to pay more money to subscribe,” Skipper pointed to Sportico as the reason for ESPN to still have an agreement with the NBA for linear TV. He later added “If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”

Skipper also said the network used to invest in constant studio programming but said that’s no longer a necessity.

“We did that type of programming because the economics were different at the time,” Skipper said.

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