It is no secret to baseball fans throughout the country that the Chicago Cubs have had it rough the past few decades. Every year seems to be ‘the year’ that the Cubs will take it home and through it all many fans have stayed hopeful and loyal. WGN Radio has been their top fan since 1924 when they first signed a contract to broadcast the Cubs games. This loyalty is now coming to an end as the Chicago Cubs are parting from WGN Radio after 90 years.
It was the better business decision for WGN. After losing 197 games in just two seasons and 288 games in three seasons, WGN AM 720 suffered significantly from decreased ratings as each season passed. Not to mention that in 2013, numerous weekend games showed no rating points at all in the radio station’s meter system. WGN was slowly losing money and its credibility.
In 2009, WGN paid nearly $10 million to the Cubs franchise for the deal, and the amount would continue to rise and eventually doubled since then. When WGN realized they were running out of financial options, the radio station’s head financial team constructed different contract deals to keep the loyal partnership with the Cubs while also lessening yearly expenses in connection with the franchise. One option even included the Cubs handling all broadcast and advertising rights while WGN would simply only air the games for a small fee, which is the absolute minimal deal that the radio station offers. The Cubs did not agree with any of the five different offers presented to them and looked to sign elsewhere. This season will end the longest radio contract in all of baseball broadcast history. This contract was scheduled to end in 2022.
As the Cubs part from WGN Radio after 90 years, the franchise is now looking to sign a new seven-year contract with Chicago’s other prestigious hometown radio station, WBBM AM 780. They offered the Cubs an all-cash deal, one in which the Cubs could not refuse.
The dissolution of the partnership leads to one other problem. Not only did WGN air the Cubs games on the radio, but they also aired the games on their WGN TV station as well. Thankfully for the organization, the games are split equally with Chicago’s Comcast Sports Net. CSN airs half of the 162 games throughout the season, but they have not gone public about picking up the other half from the WGN loss. The dual-partnership included the Cubs receiving $500,000 a game from CSN and only $250,000 from WGN TV. With this, the Cubs have decided to increase that number and require that it will cost $500,000 a game for whichever TV station decides to be part of the dual-partnership.
The Cubs are projected to lose at least 100 games as they have doubled that projection loss throughout the past few years. It is clear that the team is suffering greatly as they lose not only professional deals, but loyalty from their fans. There is still a great majority that will ‘bleed Cubbie Blue’ forever, but on a professional standpoint, the Cubs will need to discuss how half of their earnings they lost from WGN TV will be taken care of. WBBM AM 720 will welcome the Cubs to their station next season as Chicago Cubs part from their longtime partnership with WGN Radio after 90 years.
Commentary by Tricia Manalansan