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kid-watching-tvAs has long been expected, the Chicago Cubs have formally exercised an option to end their television broadcast deal with WGN-TV following the 2014 season, per a Chicago Tribune report. And, since the report is coming from the Tribune, owned by the Tribune Company (as is WGN), I tend to give it full credence.

This has been known to be coming down the pipeline. In fact, it was so expected that we colloquially refer to the Cubs’ TV rights with WGN being “up” after 2014, even though it was technically the Cubs’ option to back-out at that time. The Cubs will now formally begin negotiating the broadcast rights for the games that were allocated to WGN (a little less than half), with the other games still being held under an agreement with CSN through 2019. Those negotiations will begin with an exclusive negotiation period for WGN.

According to the Tribune report, WGN now has 30 days to meet the Cubs’ revised valuation for their rights, otherwise the Cubs can take the rights to market and see what’s available. Presently, the Cubs receive just $20 million for the 70 odd games broadcast on WGN – quite a sweetheart arrangement when you consider that the Dodgers recently inked a deal that will net them some $300 million per 162 games.

The tentative expectation has been that the Cubs will seek a short-term relationship – with WGN or another party – that will pay the Cubs an increased fee for their WGN games from 2014 to 2019. Then, the full slate of Cubs games will be available for a deal. This approach would decrease the Cubs’ expected take for the WGN games from 2014 to 2019 (broadcasters prefer long-term contracts that lock in rates), but would likely increase their take after 2019 dramatically (because a broadcaster would much prefer to buy the full slate of games, rather than a mere portion).

Alternatively, the Cubs could negotiate with CSN (partly-owned by the Ricketts Family) to bring the full slate of games over after 2014, but that’s an option that hasn’t fully been sussed out yet.

Best near-term bet? The Cubs return to WGN at a slightly increased rate for the five-year period from 2015 to 2019. From there, all bets are off.

  • Aaron

    By the Cubs televising their games on WGN ever since I can remember, they have in many ways become America’s team. A baseball team of the people, more specifically people without cable. My hope is that they can continue to be on WGN TV by negotiating a new deal that is win-win for all parties.

    • Funn Dave

      It may be different in Illinois, but here in Wisconsin you don’t get WGN unless you have cable.

  • http://facebook robert w pfauth cedar spring / grand rapids michigan

    Im with brother mich goat im in cedar springs but I used to live down in the SW lower part of mich and all games on csn was blocked out because we live under a 100 mile distance that’s the cable and sati light company’s doing it really sucks so I here you and im a die hard cubs fan and chi don’t care lese about us we are more $$$$$ for them wow : (

  • DocShock8

    I wonder if this situation with the NFL and FCC regarding their blackouts will have any affect on MLB.tv and their blackouts.

    http://www.foxsportswest.com/story/Acting-FCC-Chairwoman-looks-to-gut-NFL-b?blockID=957339&feedID=3707

    • terencemann

      MLB.tv blackouts aren’t tied to ticket sales, though. They exist in order to not compete with the channels that carry the team’s games (which is one of the largest revenue generator for MLB teams) and to pressure cable providers to pick-up the channels that carry the team’s games in areas around where the team plays. MLB would rather you watch the game on tv. The rules are definitely terrible, though. Living in Iowa must suck if you want to watch baseball on MLB.tv.

  • Anthony Martini

    Really – everytime I want to sit on the deck during the summer and watch a game on over the air free Diital TV where I don’t have a comcast digital box , there was no game or the White Sox were on. I swear the Sox are on WHG more now anyway .So who cares at this point !

  • Funn Dave

    Every Cubs game should be broadcast nationally on network television. Every Cubs minor leage and spring training game should be broadcast nationally on any one of the five Cubs cable channels that should be packaged automatically into every cable package in the country (five to accomodate any possible overlap in minor league game times). All Cubs-related winter league, fall league, dominican league, etc. games should be similarly broadcast on said channels. Every Cubs’ player should be followed by cameras throughout all of every day for the live reality TV shows that should be streamed live on the internet. Of course, the crowning jewel of all of these reality shows should be a The Apprentice – type show, with Theo as the Donald Trump character, as he mercilessly narrows down the Cubs’ managerial candidates week by week.

    I suppose re-upping with WGN would also be acceptable.

    • terencemann

      I agree with this sentiment.

    • YourResidentJag

      Well, I think the idea is that NBC Sports Network wants to get involved in baseball. So, maybe all those teams with CSN affiliations will go there.

      • Funn Dave

        I’d be ok with that. For some reason CSN bothers me.

  • Austin

    I seriously hope they don’t go all CSN ever. I can’t watch CSN games over in SW Michigan and only when they are on WGN can I watch them. Or I hope they at least change something to make them watchable on CSN. It’s only Cubs games I can’t watch. Bulls I can watch perfectly fine on CSN.

  • Mike

    They can’t move all the games to CSN…if so they would have to regularly put them on CSN plus with does horribly with ratings (people either don’t know it’s on there or they don’t have it I don’t know) so CSN already has said they don’t want to have so many games on CSN plus b/c the ad revenue is drastically lower when it is aired on CSN plus. I miss the days when all cub games were aired on WGN…it’s the sole reason they have the national following they do. It would be stupid to move to a local cable station.

  • http://sportsdanny@blogspot.com Dan

    Or the Cubs could just start their own network for 70 games and then in 2019 – put all of them on the Cubs Network. If WGN truly was paying market value, they would pay 95 million dollars for 70 games – that isn’t happening and why would the Cubs accept below market value?

    • Pat

      How are you computing market value? Nobody would pay 95 million for seventy games with a contract that expires in five years.

  • TinLV

    When I lived in Texas back when Cable TV was still new where I lived, WGN was one of the stations available, so I started watching Cubs games, renewing my interest in baseball from when I was a kid. My husband started watching too and pretty soon we were, and are to this day, die-hard Cubs fans. Without WGN, there are a lot of Cubs fans who wouldn’t be out here across the whole country. Even though I have direct tv now and ‘extra innings’ and can watch the Cubs on CSN and sometimes ESPN or MLB.. I still prefer the games on WGN. Its more personal and the announcers feel like people you know. Its just more fun, If they leave WGN for good, watching the Cubs will never be the same.

  • Mr. Brent Kennedy

    Just thinking out loud here. As a 40% owner of CSN, would Reinsdorf be opposed to all Cubs games on CSN? At the very least, it would push some of the Sox games to CSN+ which may not be available on some cable networks.

  • Voice of Reason

    There’s an easy answer to that question!!

    Can reinsdorf make money by having cubs games on that channel?

    He didn’t get where he is today because if emotional attachments to ANYTHING!

    Its all about the money!

    • Mr. Brent Kennedy

      Fair point. I thought about that. Though, I recall him saying the Sox championship meant more to him than all the Bulls championships. Also, he views baseball as a passion, more than a profession.

  • Cryinmybluecoolaid

    HD Radio could be real option for the Cubs. Interesting article in the Trib about the Bears investing in the HD radio technology.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/ct-spt-1030-sherman-media-20131030,0,6958302.column

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  • Mike

    I don’t have cable, and sure as hell I am not buying it, so it’s going to suck when Cubs go off air for me, but it has long been expected. Well, there are always pirated low-res streams…

    • MichiganGoat

      MLB.tv is very affordable about the same as Netflix mouthly

      • MichiganGoat

        *monthly

        • Mike

          Have you heard of blackouts?

          • Internet Random

            Racist.

            • Mike

              Whiteout then? But it is either weather calamity or censorship tool.

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