No guarantees for WGN as Cubs look at next TV deal

No guarantees for WGN as Cubs look at next TV deal
January 18, 2014, 7:15 pm
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It could be game over for the superstation that made the Cubs a national team and turned Wrigley Field into a huge tourist destination.

“The Cubs have only been on WGN for something like 68 years,” chairman Tom Ricketts joked. “In light of that new relationship ...”

The Cubs are locked into WGN for only more season and have been talking with Fox about a potential bridge deal that would put X-number of games on a local Chicago affiliate before launching a regional sports network in 2020. Comcast SportsNet Chicago has exclusive cable rights through the 2019 season.

The die-hards packed inside the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on Saturday for the Cubs Convention wanted to know where to watch in the future. President of business operations Crane Kenney said the Cubs have been discussing a smaller package of games that could be broadcast on WGN, as well as weighing the idea of “leaving them altogether.”

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“We think they’re great partners,” Ricketts said. “We’ve had a great relationship with them for a long time. We hope that there’s something that works out between the team and the station. There’s a lot of shifting dynamics in television economics that have to be kind of part of the discussion.”

Kenney said the Cubs are also talking to WGN Radio — as well as other outlets — about another deal that expires after the 2014 season. A decision is expected before Opening Day. Either way, the Cubs want Pat Hughes as their play-by-play guy on radio.

As much as fans get nostalgic about listening to Harry Caray and coming home from school to watch Cubs baseball, board member Todd Ricketts pointed out the uncertainty surrounding Tribune Co.’s broadcasting portfolio after emerging from bankruptcy: “WGN is going through a lot of changes itself. So it’s going to be just a matter of: (With) the Cubs and WGN, is the synergy still there?”