According to a report from Ed Sherman, WGN-AM 720 is exercising an option to re-open their contract with the team due to “sharply declining ratings because of the Cubs’ struggles on the field.”
WGN has been broadcasting Cubs games since 1925 and would like to continue carrying the games but there is an option in the contract, which was renegotiated in 2009, that would allows WGN to pay less to carry the games.
According to the Tribune’s sources, WGN is currently paying as much as $10 million per year to the Cubs, and maybe more, which would make the deal one of the most expensive in baseball.
Ed Sherman explained that the Cubs “don’t appear to have much leverage if they want to shop their games in the market, which now is an option for them.” The Score (670 AM) is the home of the White Sox and are under contract. ESPN 1000 could be an option according to Sherman but the deal with the Bulls could cause conflicts over the first three months of the baseball season. Sherman added that ESPN 1000 “appears unlikely” and “is not in the position or mood to drop big bucks on the Cubs.” WBBM-AM 780 and WLS-AM 890 are not considered to be options and “going to an FM station isn’t a viable alternative.”
According to the report, 720 WGN is the only viable option and it is “possible that a reworked deal could be tied into a new TV deal to keep some games on WGN-Ch. 9.”
The Cubs have begun looking into a new TV deal with WGN, which the team can opt out of their current contract following next season. Sherman reported that “negotiations are taking place on that front too.”
WGN would like to remain the home of the Cubs but the radio station has lost significant money on a team that has lost 197 games over the past two seasons. Advertisers and listeners are simply not willing to pay attention.
Cubs games will continue to air on the station in 2014, “but beyond that, the two sides will have to agree on a new deal.”