Rejoice, CSN Chicago Will Stream Cubs Games In-Market in 2017

Kiss those blackouts goodbye!

What was tentatively announced during the business operations panel at Cubs Convention has now become a full-on reality. Crain’s Danny Ecker reports that NBCUniversal has reached an agreement with MLB to allow live streaming of Cubs (and White Sox) games to in-network subscribers this season. This is a huge step in the right direction and should help to alleviate at least some of the pain created by the Cubs’ fractured broadcast situation.

It’s still far from perfect, though.

While games will be available online and on mobile devices for free through and the NBC Sports app, the service is only available to those who have CSN Chicago as a part of their cable package. As with most other live-streaming services, you’ll just need to log in with your TV provider username and password. So that effectively eliminates you cord-cutters out there.

Unless *looks both ways to make sure The Man isn’t watching, speaks in hushed tones* you happen to know someone who’s willing to share their login info with you. But I’m sure none of you are so unscrupulous as to take such measures.

You should be know, however, that this is something the networks are very well aware of. While it wasn’t addressed directly in the announcement, it’s pretty clear that the proprietors of this service are going to do what they can to protect themselves from all manner of online piracy.

“There’s value for the fans, distribution partners, sponsors and advertisers,” T.K. Gore, CSN Chicago’s senior director of digital, said of the addition of Cubs and Sox games to the streaming slate. “I believe in the technology that we and NBC Sports Group have built.”

While that last bit appears to be a very simple statement, it should be noted that Gore was addressing the ability to police the use of their streaming service. Whether that means monitoring IP addresses or preventing concurrent logins remains to be seen, but you have to think either or both will be in play as carriers seek to protect their investment. And what is that investment, exactly?

Under an agreement reached last year, each of the regional Fox networks have to pay $2 million per year per team for the rights to live-stream MLB games. That means CSN Chicago might be coughing up $4 million annually to give many of us one more reason to keep our noses buried in our phones.

Personally, I love this because I’m considered in-network for the Cubs and I have CSN Chicago as a part of my DirecTV package. Of course, there’s still the matter of those annoying WGN, ABC-7, or WPWR games, not all of which are picked up by various local stations throughout the Midwest. That will persist through the 2019 season, after which the Cubs should be able to bring all of their broadcast rights under one umbrella again.

It’s hard to speculate on exactly what that will look like, but it’s a safe bet that a Cubs Network will operate in conjunction with Fox or Comcast or some such to offer television and live-streaming broadcasts of the game. It’s possible — likely even — that our consumption of said products will have changed so much by then that there will be a way to pick it up on an a la carte basis, regardless of your cable-subscription status.

For now, though, this is very good news for those fans who have cable and want to be able to watch the Cubs when they’re away from home. It’s also a sign that the team and its broadcast partners are aware of the changing market and are willing to adapt to it. Well, to an extent.

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