According to a report from the Tribune, the Cubs are close to a deal with WLS-Ch. 7 (ABC) to televise part the games previously carried by WGN TV through the 2019 season.
Robert Channick reported “the ABC-owned station is expected to carry 25 games per season beginning in April. The station would air games in primetime, daytime and weekends.”
The deal could be finalized and announced soon.
The news about the Cubs closing in on a deal with WLS-Ch. 7 comes on the heels of Matt Spiegel’s reports Thursday that the team was in serious talks with WGN-Ch. 9 to televise 45 games for the 2015 season. Spiegel was unclear where the remaining 15 games or so of the Cubs schedule would be televised.
The Cubs are under contract with Comcast SportsNet through the 2019 season but have been searching for a TV partner since last fall that would carry the games previously aired on WGN-TV. Due to the non-compete agreement with Comcast SportsNet, which the Ricketts family owns 15 percent of as part of the purchase of the team, the remaining schedule cannot be televised on another cable station. Those games have to be on an over the air carrier.
The team has been in negotiations with Tribune Media (WGN-TV) to put the 70-plus games back on WGN-Ch.9 but the two sides have not been able to iron out a new contract. The Cubs received around $500,000 per game from Comcast SportsNet and were paid about $250,000 per game from WGN under the previous deal. The Cubs were looking for WGN to pay the same rate as Comcast SportsNet under a new contract.
According to the report from the Tribune, “the potential deal with a network-owned station is something of a media curveball, with few industry observers pegging WLS-TV as a player in the Cubs’ drawn out drama to find a new TV partner. Where the balance of next season’s television schedule remains to be seen, but sources say WGN or CSN may pick up the remaining displaced games.”
Crane Kenney provided details on where the team stood on the media rights last month.
The Cubs are working on finalizing a TV contract for next season and they are hopeful a deal will be in place by the end of the year. Even if the games that were previously carried on WGN TV end up back on WGN, those games will not be available on WGN America. The superstation is converting to a basic cable channel and will not be televising sporting events, like the Cubs or the Bulls or the White Six outside of the Chicago market.
The team has to find an over the air carrier because the Comcast SportsNet contract prevents (non-compete) the Cubs from televising games on another cable channel. The Cubs will have an over the air partner for a couple of years until the team has control of all the games following the 2019 season.
Bruce Levine reported Thursday morning that the Cubs were still searching for a TV partner for the games not televised by Comcast SportsNet. And the games could end up back on WGN-TV. Levine indicated in his report that starting with the 2015 season, the Cubs will receive $650,000 per game from Comcast SportsNet and “that figure increases every year, maxing out at $750,000 per broadcast in 2019.”