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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