The Chicago Cubs have a working partnership with Sinclair, having chosen the controversial media company to launch their Marquee Sports Network.
Now Sinclair and the Cubs are reportedly partnering on another venture: launching a direct-to-consumer streaming service, available without an existing provider. The over-the-top service, though, faces pushback from MLB itself, setting up a confrontation that could reveal which way MLB is leaning on launching their own planned direct streaming service.
The New York Post’s Josh Kosman reported the planned maneuver from Sinclair and the Cubs, including the note that the preliminary price for the service is $18 per month:
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is concerned that Sinclair, loaded down with debt after a series of big acquisitions, doesn’t have the cash needed to produce high-quality broadcasts, sources said. As exclusively reported by The Post, Manfred also has been angling to launch a league-wide streaming service as soon as next year.
The stakes in the dispute could be high: The Cubs, which own Marquee Sports in a 50-50 partnership with Sinclair, are among the most valuable franchises in baseball. If the team begins broadcasting its games directly to consumers, it might set a precedent for other franchises to quickly follow suit, according to sources close to the situation.
$18 per month would be a very high price, of course, for just one team. When not in the middle of a lockout stemming from the rampant greed of ownership, MLB does provide a lot of hours of inventory per month, of course, but $18 is nearly a third of a current monthly subscription to a streaming television provider. Surely there is a market for people who have kept their linear carriers just to have legal access to Marquee, and for them, stepping down to something like a YouTube TV+Cubs streaming service would represent a net savings.
But that’s a small bubble. Sinclair’s entire strategy seems to be to build a product that includes the streaming rights for the teams it’s currently in business with in some form, whether directly as with the Cubs or by owning the RSN on which a team’s games air. They’ve also secured short-term deals with the NBA and NHL for streaming. But MLB has their own planned service, and so far the league has seemed more inclined to try and wait out Sinclair’s potential financial issues in order to gain leverage one way or another.
Still, if the Cubs and Sinclair do bring this to market, it at the very least will be a fascinating case study in how much demand there really is for this kind of product.