Report: Cubs Talking to Fox about TV Rights

According to a report from Patrick Mooney, the Cubs “are in talks with Fox about their broadcasting future” as the team looks to maximize their television revenue. A deal with Fox would end the Cubs relationship with WGN “and potentially lay the groundwork for a second regional sports network in Chicago.”

The Cubs exercised an option in their contract with WGN TV on Nov. 6 that gave their longtime partner 30 days to negotiate a new deal or the Cubs could shop their broadcast rights to other outlets. The Cubs had to exercise the option when they did or they would have been locked into the contract with WGN TV through the 2022 season. The Cubs are under contract with Comcast SportsNet through the 2019 season.

The team is reportedly paid around $60 million per season from WGN and Comcast SportsNet to televise the games, with $20 million coming from the games broadcast on WGN TV. When the Cubs opted out of the deal in November, most thought the team and WGN would work out a new five-year contract that would end after the 2019 season. But that does not appear to be the case. WGN will carry the games during the upcoming season.

According to Mooney’s report, “one concept being discussed is a bridge deal that would put X-number of games on a local Fox affiliate during that five-year window, before taking the full schedule to a new channel in 2020.”

The front office is banking on the business side providing the revenue they need in order to compete. Patrick Mooney pointed to the fact Crane Kenney negotiated the long-term contract with the rooftops that is stalling the Wrigley Field restoration plans in his report.

Teams are capitalizing on the big-money television deals that are now part of the game’s landscape. And while the Cubs do not figure to sign a television contract near the size of the one the Dodgers inked with Time-Warner Cable, the Cubs’ television rights figure to be worth more than the 25-year, $2.5 billion contract the Phillies just received.

The Cubs are expected to address their radio and television contracts during the Cubs Convention.

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  • Tony_Hall

    I posted this in response Sanibelchuck on the radio thread from yesterday, but thought many would enjoy this look at MLB and radio.

    http://reggiedeal.mlblogs.com/2013/11/02/some-major-league-baseball-teams-must-rethink-their-radio-contracts/

    “A total of 13 teams are on very powerful stations that truly provide the best possible coverage area.” This currently includes the Cubs.

    Here is also some info on the radio blackout policy.

    “In MLB there are radio blackouts, although ESPN Radio has exclusive rights to the World Series and only the flagship stations of the two participating ballclubs can originate coverage, though their broadcasts are also available on XM Satellite Radio as well as the subscription Gameday Audio package on MLB.com. All other network affiliates of the two clubs must carry the ESPN Radio feed, and they may not even be able to do so if they compete with an ESPN Radio affiliate in the same market. Additionally, the two flagships must broadcast ESPN Radio national commercials during their game coverage (though they can run live commercial reads for local sponsors during broadcasts and sell ads during typically extended pre/post-game shows).

    Additionally, radio stations (including flagships) may not include any MLB games in the live Internet streams of their station programming. (MLB makes its own streams of the team networks available for a fee.) Some stations will replace the game with a recorded message explaining why the game cannot be heard on their stream. Others will simply stream the station’s regularly scheduled programming that is being preempted by the game.”

  • Sanibelchuck

    Tony, thank you for providing this information about the various AM stations that carry broadcasts. It was very informative.

    • cubtex

      that is a bit misleading Sanibelchuck. Many AM radio stations are 50,000 Watt from sun up to sun down and then are required to turn down power in the evening. There are several more stations than 13. Take WTMJ in Milwaukee for instance. Look at the coverage area in the link. Wattage can be very misleading as well. I work several radio stations nationwide where the Wattage might not be as strong as others but because based on the tower location and demographics the signal goes a long way.

      http://www.radio-locator.com/info/WTMJ-AM

      • cubtex

        If you click on the nightime coverage map you can see that WTMJ goes as far south as Elgin and as far north as Green Bay.

  • 07GreyDigger

    Sad about WGN. I have family who work there, but Tribune company just got out of bankruptcy and they’re still figuring out where they want to go business wise. I’m guessing keeping the Cubs just didn’t make sense for them financially.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Yesterday is it was a Bear….today it’s a Fox………are we putting together a team or a Zoo?

  • Rational Logic

    I love it. Theo & Company building a strong foundation for the product with the business side setting up additional long term funding to keep the plan in place. Great abilities are being created.