Report: WBBM-AM Leading Candidate to be Cubs Radio Partner

According to a report from the Tribune’s Ed Sherman, WBBM-AM has emerged as the leading candidate to become the Cubs new radio partner. Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney have pointed to Opening Day as the timeframe the team would like to have its radio rights settled with either 720 WGN or a new station that would broadcast Cubs games starting in 2015. According to Sherman’s report, WBBM has taken the lead  in landing the Cubs over the other outlets thought to be in the mix.

WGN-AM 720 exercised an option with the Cubs in the fall that allowed the station to renegotiate its contract with the team. Reports at the time indicated WGN was losing money broadcasting Cubs games due to the product on the field. WGN has been the radio partner of the Chicago Cubs since 1925.

Ed Sherman reported, “The CBS-owned outlet is using all of its local stations in a synergistic bid to land the rights to the Cubs.” The Cubs are believed to have “one of the most lucrative” radio contracts in baseball. Reports have indicated the Cubs receive as much as $10 million per season for its radio rights.

Unlike the television rights that are split up and expire at different times (WGN TV after the 2014 season, Comcast SportsNet after the 2019 season and MLB), the Cubs own all of its radio rights and are looking to maximize those dollars.

According to the report, “CBS could be in the best position to add to its sports inventory. The station already airs Bears games on its AM outlet along with a simulcast on its FM station, WCFS-AM 105.9. CBS also has White Sox games on its sports talk outlet, WSCR-AM 670.” Sherman added, “A possible deal with CBS would extend beyond just airing games. The new pact could include CBS-station sponsored concerts and events at Wrigley Field and at new entertainment venues that will be part of the overall ballpark renovation project. There also would be promotional opportunities for the Cubs on CBS’ multiple platforms and for the stations throughout Wrigley Field and its surroundings.”

WLS-AM is not expected to meet the Cubs’ asking price according to Ed Sherman and ESPN 1000 “is not in the hunt.” And WGN may or may not step up and do what it takes to keep the Cubs according to the report.

If the Cubs move to WBBM-AM it could impact the White Sox’s broadcasts moving forward. Sherman reported the Sox’s deal with WSCR (The Score) expires after the 2015 season and “if WGN loses the Cubs, the station could be in the market to bid for Sox games in 2016.”

The Cubs did not comment on the situation and according to Ed Sherman. Rod Zimmerman, Senior Vice President of CBS Radio Chicago and WGN President Jimmy de Castro were both out of town Tuesday and unavailable to comment.

During the convention, the Cubs said regardless of what happens with 720 WGN that Pat Hughes is staying with the team and will continue to be the Voice of the Chicago Cubs.

Stay Tuned …

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  • paCubsFan23

    Seems weird to me that the Braves would prefer to “trade” 14M and a 1st round pick for 1 year E. Santana rather than a pitching prospect for 2 years of Samardzija whose next 2 contracts should total close to Santana’s $14.

    • paulcatanese

      Maybe the Braves don’t want to pay for something they don’t think is worth it. and feel that Theo is out of sight with his demands for the Shark. One doesn’t see too many other teams that need starters jumping at him either.
      Does the words “overpriced and top return” ring a bell?:)

    • calicub

      Because the braves will likely get another pick next offseason when the extend a QO to Santana and he leaves for a multi-year deal. So really it’s jut money.

  • paulcatanese

    Don’t blame WGN one bit for a discount. After all the Cubs are and have been discounting the product they put on the field at the Major League level, and it is misleading to say that the future product will be more appealing to envision an increase in dollar amount that WGN would be required to pay for the “privilege” of broadcasting the games.
    Past seasons have in no way indicated that an increase is in demand, except by the Cubs who believe they have the best product out there.
    All one has to do is look at what they (Cubs) think their players are worth going forward in trades. Shark, Sheirholtz, two prime examples and the worth the Cubs are putting on them, overpriced, overpaid.

    • triple

      I’ve been to two Cubs spring training games so far this year. One was at the Reds ballpark on the weekend where they drew just over 5k fans. And the other was yesterday at Cubs park where they set a record with just under 15k fans (and on a weekday). So I’m pretty sure the spring training attendance records are somewhat indicative of the future support and hope that Cubs fans have that this team will get better and will be a big hit and draw many fans as they turn it around.

      • paulcatanese

        I have no doubt that the Cubs will draw,
        other than the fifties and very early sixties they didn’t, 1500- 5000 a game.
        Nice for me, I could get a good box at the gate.
        But over the years, they draw and in spite of the last couple of years they will continue to draw, maybe not quite as much, but will still pack them in.

    • DWalker

      WGN is looking at the right now and last few years for a discount on a future cash cow. I think they might have shot themselves in the foot on this one though because the Cubs are one of the few teams that just by existing right now still draw interest. That could change if they continued like the last couple of years. WGN saw an oppertunity to save themselves a little money on that and probably thought they could retain the rights on the cheap and cash in later on. I expect this will be a fairly short term contract, afterall, why would the cubs want to lock into a long contract at a reduced rate when they have some potentially very exciting players in the wings that will bring people in? and watch out if the kids actually were to make a playoof run. No way the cubs want 2018 revenues tied to the 2012-2013 team.
      As far as over valueing their own players? what team doesn’t? only an idiot starts out by undervaluing their players in trade negotiations. If the cubs REALLY over valued shark, he’d already be signed to a 10 year, no trade contract. Of course they are asking high because the market calls for pitchers like shark to be over valued. This is a sellers market and management intends to make as much out of that as they can. If anything, I think maybe they are UNDER valuing Shark like they might have Garza in not making more effort to lock them up. Shark will be traded and the haul won’t be what Cubs fan want, but it will have a good return.

      • paulcatanese

        Overall whether looking for a deal by WGN, or the Cubs looking for more is immaterial for me.
        WGN has associated themselves with the Cubs and the fans with WGN.
        If anyone is shooting themselves in the foot, it’s both of them. I would like them to just get it done and keep the relationship.
        And as far as the Shark goes, they both are playing games with each other.
        Shark wants that no-trade contract and Theo refuses to give one (Although Theo has said that up-front since he came aboard). A no-no win situation, neither will give in. But Theo has the edge on this one, since he hasn’t hidden that from anyone.
        His (Theo) best bet is doing just what he is doing, holding on to Shark for the highest return he can get, which wont be appealing anytime soon to other teams, the Shark just isn’t that good.
        I think both know how this is going to end up, and it will just play on and on
        until someone bites or the Shark caves on the no trade.

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