kid-watching-tvThe 2013 Chicago Cubs haven’t been winning enough games to convince anyone that they’re a contender, and that lack of faith is reflected in flagging attendance and reduced television viewing.

Crain’s Danny Ecker reports that, when compared to this point last season, attendance at Wrigley Field is down 14%. Then again, at about 32,600 per game, at least the Cubs still have the 12th best attendance in baseball.

Equally alarmingly, the ratings for Cubs games on CSN are down 15% when compared with this point last year. Ecker’s piece is worth reading for some caveats on the declines, including a notation that the Cubs’ TV ratings are actually up in the 25 to 54 age demographic.

The attendance decline is both lamentable and expected. With a fourth consecutive non-competitive team – particularly one that was not expected to be competitive from the get-go – I would be surprised if the Cubs were surprised at the slip in attendance. When the Cubs are good, attendance will shoot back up through the roof.

When the Cubs are good.

As for the television drop, that, too, is largely attributable to the Cubs’ lousy play. But, unlike the attendance drop – for which the long-term ramifications are probably limited to some lost dollars this year – I fear that the drop in television ratings could impact the Cubs’ upcoming efforts to shop the expiring WGN portion of their television contract, which is up after 2014.

Half of the Cubs’ games are available to the highest bidder, subject to some reported restrictions on the entities to which the Cubs can shop them, and that bidder is going to want the security of a long-term deal. The Cubs’ bargaining position remains strong, but an annual ratings decline spanning multiple years might be enough to give bidders pause. Maybe they ask for a discount. Maybe the Cubs don’t have a choice. Those rights were expected to be shopped/discussed/negotiated as soon as this offseason.

That all said: as with attendance, I doubt any of this is a surprise to the Cubs, and I expect that they’ve been planning for it in ways I can’t even anticipate. It’s just an unfortunate complication to a process that is critical to the Cubs’ long-term success. Let’s hope the business guys are as effective in practice as the baseball guys are in theory.

  • kyle

    Its well established thatCubs fans are more about the experience than winning. Winning is a nice thing and we all love that, sharing a generational experience is priceless. If your not a life long Cubs fan I wouldn’t expect you to get that but there are millions out there that understand where I am coming from.

    Don’t hate me DarthHater, I thought this link was dead and long forgotten

    • DarthHater

      I’ve been a Cubs fan since the 1960s. Who died and put you in charge of deciding what Cubs fans are “about”?

      • On The Farm

        I concur, why am I less of a Cubs fan because I want the Cubs to win and want to be able to watch them on TV, more than I care if they put up a jumbotron?

    • Jono

      (First, we should stick with the proper context. These are our own opinions, or our first hand experiences. Trying to imply that your opinion represents people you haven’t been in contact with is just making an assumption)

      That said, most Cubs fans I know simply want to see them win and they also want major renovations to wrigley. It’s a dump, let’s be honest here. It’s traditional, but it’s still a dump. The Cubs fans I know rather have the renovations with the video boards than to have wrigley get worse and worse, even if it comes at the sacrifice of its traditional feel.

      Anyway, my point is not to assume that your opinion, or the opinion of the sample you’ve collected, is automatically an accurate representation of all cubs fandom. By doing that, you’re pretty much just saying, “i’m right, you’re wrong” without the proper data to back it up.

      • Timmy

        just for the record, i’m with you that the ballpark needs renovations. i just don’t like alterations so dramatic that it could be any ballpark in any city built within the past 10 years anywhere. and that’s where it’s going.

        • Jono

          You’re joking, right?

        • DarthHater

          Don’t worry, the pillars will still be there and we’ll make sure you’re seated behind one, so you’ll feel at home.

  • kyle

    Would you trade a world sersies if you had to watch it from the bleachers in Rosemont.

    I wouldn’t.

    • Jono

      I would trade wrigley for an appearance in the world series because I’m a Cubs fan first and wrigley fan second

      • AlwaysNextYear

        I think this sums up my view perfectly. When Cub fans go to wrigley do they spend there time looking at the stadium for 9 innings or do they watch the game.

        • jmc

          whatever happened 2 smokee links?

    • Jono

      Hey brett, Id love to see a poll; what would you trade for wrigley? A winning season? Playoff appearance? NLCS appearance? World series appearance? Wold series championship? Multiple championships? Nothing?

  • kyle

    That’s a good question. I suspect about half the fans wouldn’t consider the Cubs the Cubs if they weren’t playing at Wrigley.

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  • jmc

    look darthater I have been a Cubs fan since the 50’s I remember when there were a couple of thousand people in Wrigley and you could holler at the players and they could hear you.until the Cubs pay four star players the tourists will buy hot dogs and choco malts and the cubs will continue to be lovable losers

  • Sammy

    I think you will see the Ricketts set up their own regional TV network like the Red Sox and New England Sports Network. They will probably pull in one or two other Chicago sport franchises into the network. This was the plan all along.

    The genius is that they totally stiffed their TV partners the last three years by not even feigning trying to be competitive. Now as the prospects come up and they add a few strategic free agents, the Cubs benefit from the upswing by owning their own TV rights/network. If they were to negotiate the TV rights this off-season, they would likely be worth much less, but that’s not the plan.

    • jh03

      Wait, is this not a spam post? Someone actually just posted on an article from June 10th?