By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) As first reported here Wednesday, the Cubs and WGN-TV have officially agreed on a five-year contract that has opt-out and revenue options for both sides.
This final piece of the televsion broadcast puzzle assures Cubs fans in the Chicago area of viewing all of the team’s games going forward through 2019. The organization is now committed to three broadcast partners.
Comcast SportsNet will televise upward of 90 games, depending on how many Cubs broadcasts are picked up by national TV partners Fox and ESPN. Local channel WLS/ABC-7 will broadcast 25 games, and WGN will transmit 45 games on local channel 9.
The new deal between the Cubs and WGN — which opted out of a deal with the team after the 2014 season because it was losing money — has various changes in the contract. First and foremost, WGN America — which has hundreds of cable deals across the nation and other countries — will no longer carry Cubs games as it transitions into a cable network. This will be the first time Cubs fans in other markets won’t see the team’s games since WGN became a super station in the late 1970s.
The previous contract called for a payout of about $240,000 per game from WGN to the Cubs. Industry sources say the Cubs will get less in the new WGN deal. A revenue-sharing aspect of the contract would mean more money based on advertising sales. That could be available for profit on both sides, although it’s unconfirmed at this point.
The only way most out-of-town Cubs fans will see the team play will be on MLB’s “Extra Innings” package, which costs $200 annually to subscribers. Local channel WLS/ABC-7 will make its broadcasts available to smaller Midwest ABC markets in such cities as Des Moines. Channel 7 will be paid at a rate per broadcast picked up.
Comcast SportsNet has some Cubs broadcasts picked up some markets like Peoria.
The Cubs still envision their own television network after these contracts end in October 2019. A deal like the one the Dodgers have is what Cubs executives hope for in 2020 and beyond. The Dodgers receives $4 billion to $6 billion over the next 20 years in their local cable TV agreement
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.