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Levine: Cubs' TV Revenue Won't Change Theo Epstein's Approach

By Bruce Levine--

BOCA RATON, Fla. (CBS) -- It's possible the Cubs will have their own network for televising games beginning in 2020, with president of business operations Crane Kenney reiterating to the Mully and Hanley Show on Wednesday morning that the franchise intends to have their own channel in 2020.

The Cubs' current deal with Comcast SportsNet Chicago cable network runs through 2019. The Cubs, Blackhawks, White Sox and Bulls each own 20 percent of the CSN Chicago pie. The local baseball revenues for cable games has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. As an example, three years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed a local TV contract that will provide them with between $4 billion and $5 billion over the next 20 years.

The Cubs are making $675,000 per game from the Comcast deal right now. That price will top out at $750,000 per game in 2019. The franchise gets $200,000 per game for its WGN and ABC local TV games.

The Cubs hope to average $1 million per broadcast going forward after 2019, according to to industry sources. If the Cubs produce their games over a cable station of their own, there are more headaches and risks than the Dodgers' deal affords. Filling 24 hours of programming is difficult for a niche cable station -- such as YES Network, which is predicated around the Yankees and carries the lion's share of their games.

Regardless of how it all shakes out, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein doesn't envision this likely windfall of TV riches building the Cubs into $300-million payroll spenders like the Dodgers have become.

"We don't think we will ever be facing that kind of situation," Epstein said my question of having huge revenue streams for him to access. "Yeah, you are right. If you really think about the money that is available in this industry, it can be mind boggling. That is especially compared to what teachers and doctors make for a living. On the face of things, it doesn't make sense. This industry is a kind of a closed ecosystem. We just set that aside and understand what our system is and ... what our situation is. You want to avoid being tied into having too many big, long contracts. That can lead to dead money on the books."

Epstein makes it seem like the baseball industry is made up of bogus monopoly cash. In many ways, that's correct. In order to operate, you must keep your head down to get work accomplished. The robust revenue streams will continue for the Cubs, as long as the perception is they will be competitive for a consistent period of time.

Epstein -- who refused to get into his own contract situation that could triple from the $3.5 million he makes now -- is hard at work along with general manager Jed Hoyer in making the Cubs' system sustainable for years to come.

"This is a balancing act," Epstein said. "Do you really get your arms around just how much money is involved? You really can't do your job if you concentrate on that. It is not real money, per se. This is how you exist in this game."

Look for the Cubs to find a deal with their current partners a better way to go than creating a whole network with limited other programming that's viable.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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