It’s a bright, sunny day in the middle of summer. You’re stuck in the car, with at least two hours left in the trip. What do you do?
You turn the radio dial to 720-AM, and you hear the excited chatter of the Friendly Confines followed shortly thereafter by the now-famous line, “Chicago Cubs Baseball is on the air!”
Unless the Chicago Cubs are willing to take a reduced price to broadcast their games on WGN-AM 720, this historical relationship could be coming to a close, though that outcome seems unlikely for several reasons.
With the team coming off its worst three-year stretch in history, ratings have plummeted as listeners and advertisers flock from WGN in search of other programs. The expensive rights deal, combined with the troubling ratings, was enough to prompt WGN to exercise to re-open their contract with the Cubs.
Sources indicate that WGN is losing a significant amount of money during Cubs’ broadcasts. Games will still be aired during the 2014 season, but the future beyond that point depends on a new deal being hammered out between the two sides.
According to Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune, the future remains uncertain, although the Cubs certainly don’t want to jeopardize the long-standing relationship between the station and the team.
In Sherman’s article, WGN-AM President Jimmy de Castro declined to discuss any of the specifics of the situation. However, he stressed several times that he hopes the Cubs continue to be on WGN.
“Like any contract, there are periods where you do a business analysis. Both the Cubs and WGN are looking at it. We love our partnership and we hope it continues forever. The contract calls for us to take a look at it and we’re going to do that.”
Industry sources also indicate that the current deal has WGN paying the Cubs at least $10 million annually, which is one of the biggest radio deals in all of Major League Baseball. The deal was reprtedly negotiated in 2009, prior to the Ricketts family buying the team. The number was based on a team that was coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, but as we all know, it’s been a very different story since then.
With most of the other potential radio options tied up with the White Sox and Chicago Bulls, it only makes sense that the Cubs stick with WGN. That, and the fact that they would alienate themselves from a whole generation of fan that think Cubs, WGN 720 and Old Style are a package deal.