Cubs Network a 2020 reality? Or 2015 reality show? Depends who you ask

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Cubs business president Crane Kenney, left, and baseball president Theo Epstein

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Cubs announced Wednesday a second address change in as many years for their flagship radio broadcasts – next year’s games moving to 670-WSCR.

But it was business president Crane Kenney’s declaration about future TV plans while talking on the station Wednesday morning that drew attention as far away as South Florida, where the general managers meetings are being held this week.

The Cubs’ current local TV contracts expire after 2019. And then?

“We’ll move over and launch our own channel in 2020,” Kenney told morning-show hosts Mully and Hanley.

That’s not a new idea; the Cubs have talked about a 24/7, Cubs/baseball channel for years as a way to hyper-boost regional TV revenues.

But Kenney’s certainty (without details of process or cost-revenue projections) was new. He also brought it up a second time during the 20-minute conversation, again suggesting a firm plan.

But not so fast, baseball ops president Theo Epstein said later in the day from the GM meetings.

“I think that’s just one option,” said Epstein, who has called the long-anticipated new TV revenues a “game changer” for his department’s resources. “My understanding is we’d be open to a deal earlier than that as well, as long as a good one presents itself.”

So was Kenney’s assertion a negotiating ploy?

“I think it’s a very real option,” said Epstein, who backed away from talking more about a subject he monitors but said he doesn’t “fully understand.”

A Cubs-owned network has the potential for open-ended revenue growth for years, but it comes with startup costs and risks.

A rights deal with an existing outlet doesn’t carry the same risk and theoretically has the benefit of producing revenue ahead of launch.

“Not everyone succeeds,” Kenney acknowledged. “The ones that have succeeded, though, have done really well for their teams in providing resources back to the club, and to save the ballpark, in our case. So we’re very excited about it.”

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