We know the Chicago Cubs have had a pretty good first half, and there are also encouraging signals that they’ll end up being okay, what with the playoff odds still being favorable and the players themselves being super-confident:
“Just baseball, you know?” Lester said. “It’s baseball. We play 162 games for a reason. It’s such a rollercoaster ride. Right now we’re making it too big of a rollercoaster. We’re making it a little more difficult on ourselves.
“We’ll get back to it. We’re too good of a staff and too good of a defense to keep going this way. … In Chicago, you’re going to hear about it. But I played in Boston for eight years. This is pretty mild compared to what I experienced in the past.”
Of course, we know that Jon Lester won a couple of World Series under the Theo Epstein-constructed Boston Red Sox, so maybe he knows something. The other nice thing about being really good at baseball (and mind you, 53 games in the first 88 is pretty darned good no matter how you cut it) is that people want to watch and throw money at the team:
Over the team’s first 45 games on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the Cubs have averaged a 4.24 average household rating, or about 147,300 Chicago TV homes watching per game.
That’s 28 percent higher than where the team’s ratings finished last season on CSN and the highest ratings the Cubs have posted by the All-Star break on the regional network since 2009, when they were coming off of a division title the season before.
And lest ye forget that the Cubs are on like 7 different channels this year:
The jump has been even more stark on WLS-TV/Channel 7, which is airing two dozen Cubs games for the second straight year in 2016.
The 11 Cubs games that have aired on the network this year have averaged a 6.6 TV rating (about 229,000 TV homes tuning in), up from a 4.6 rating through this point last season, according to the network.
The Cubs have a cash cow at Wrigley Field and have been trying to develop their product for some time after the prior ownership allowed the franchise to fall into neglect. According to an early-season FanGraphs blog, the Cubs will earn around $65MM this season in television revenues, which is 6th in the league behind the New York and Los Angeles markets, and Seattle (?!).
The deals for the Cubs are coordinated to end after the 2019 season, at which point they will be able to set up their own network. There are a number of challenges that the Cubs have anticipated, as they have outlined in interviews as well as during the Cubs Convention, and these are detailed pretty well in this article. Among the concerns are whether the TV bubble will burst given how reliant consumers are on streaming these days, which means that live TV numbers don’t matter as much since people like watching their shows at their own leisure. This is less of a problem with live sports, so maybe that won’t matter for Cubs TV revenue, but many baseball fans still rely on streaming, particularly if they are not in the region directly servicing Cubs broadcasts. That is another can of worms since MLB Advanced Media needs to get their stuff together in fixing streaming problems and also reducing the blackout restrictions, a complicated set of issues that ruffles fan feathers but can’t be resolved as quickly as we would like.
Suffice it to say that, as long as the Cubs continue to be good (and they’re very likely to be since most of the core group can’t even run for Congress or rent a car yet), there will be money because we will all be watching.