Reality TV: Cubs current deal is bad

Gordon Wittenmyer points out the obvious disadvantage that the Cubs are facing with their current television rights deal.

We all know that the Cubs and WGN are synonymous, and that the Tribune Co. owned both the Cubs and the television station when the last deal was negotiated.

Did someone say sweetheart deal?

You can bet that Tom Ricketts won’t be giving any discount next time around when the current deal expires after the 2014 season. Teams like the Angels and Rangers just got new TV money that exceed $150 million per year.

 ‘‘You just have to know its part of the game right now,’’ Ricketts said. ‘‘It seems like it’s a factor that everyone has to look at when you’re looking at the financial resources that a team has. Good for those guys. I’m glad they’re in the American League.’’

Even the small market Padres got $75 million per. Guess what the Cubs are getting from WGN and Comcast combined?

$45 million per year, which is atrocious in comparison.

You are talking about a brand like the Cubs here. It’s hard to imagine the Cubs not being on WGN TV, and here is hoping the relationship continues, but the rates are going up as we speak.

The Cubs are still locked into their deal with Comcast Sports Net until 2019. Comcast broadcasts about half the season’s games.

The Cubs should be one of the few teams that have their own network like the Yankees and Red Sox do.

Yes, there would be enough programming to fill out a TV schedule along with the possibility of adding other local teams, including college sports. Could you imagine what kind of revenue that would bring the Ricketts family?

They not only could put that money back into the team and build a monster, but also get all the needed Wrigley projects accomplished.

As for now, the Cubs should fetch at least what the Angels got and that means about $75 million just for the 81 games they can sell.

That could go a long way in making some winning programming.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: Tom Ricketts, WGN TV


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  • I was in New York when the Yankees started YES. I watched as they demanded almost three times the rate per customer that ESPN and CNN charge cable and satellite companies. And how they strong armed them all into a 300 million kitty. And I thought " Well the Cubs could do this if they had the right focused owner. ( Which was one of the reasons I was so pro-Mark Cuban.) I couldn't believe they wanted to enter an agreement with other sports teams on yet another sub-par cable station.

    ( Comcast, like FSN Chicago before it, and Sports Channel before it, and Sports Vision before it, seem to be a cut below on the production scale. It's likie they can't afford the same wattage on the lights or something. You really notice it durig hawks and Bulls games. The Reds are actually Red on ESPN, TNT, NBCSP, but they're more like blood on Comcast. WGN's HD feed is also significantly better to look at.....)

    I would have thought CUB-TV would have been right up there with Wrigley remodeling funds on the to-do list. But to do it, you have to be really driven- nd sort of in a bad way. You have to be greedy, and you ave to be kind of an ass to get it done. Steinbrenner sure was. Red Sox ownership too. Ricketts strikes me as way too nice and way too ....I don't know.....practical. Maybe political. He sure as hell isn't very confrontational. And I think you kind of have to be. I mean look at how passive the McCaskey's were about getting a new stadium. Now they're in the smallest stadium in the NFL....the Chicago Bears.

    When they do get to it. ( Hopefully after this Dog and Pony show for public funds for Wrigley Field.) They could be swimming in cash. But they kind of have to grab it by the short and curlies and twist.....and that doesn't strike me as a Tom Rickets thing.....

  • In reply to felzz:

    Some great points. I think you are right on with the WGN HD feed, however I'm pretty sure Ricketts was outspoken that he thought they should have had inherited a better TV situation. That deal was all about taking care of the (Trib) family. We all get that, but come this next negotiating period, TR really needs to figure out whether the Cub network or a much better WGN deal is best.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Good stuff, felzz

  • In reply to felzz:

    TR himself might be too nice, but the rest of his family sure aren't. They might be able to use that bad technology to get an early buyout from their contract.

  • I wonder if the Cubs might be able to do something along the line of what Phillies and Comcast might do.

    The Phillies may not have to wait until 2016 to cash in. Comcast, in a show of good faith, could rip up the final few seasons of the existing 15-year contract. That would deter any other possible bidders and eliminate the outside chance of the Phillies creating their own network.

  • If Ricketts wants to explore a Cubs network, he needs to hire someone knowledgeable in that area. By the time the current WGN contract is up, we should be ready to compete for a title, with the new money arriving at the right time to buy a FA or two that will put us over the top. In the meantime, Ricketts should look at additional investments that will enable new revenue streams. I commented yesterday about the Cubs buying a building on Sheffield or Waveland and moving offices to it and placing a jumbotron on its roof. Moving the offices out of Wrigley will also allow additional room for a new clubhouse, batting cages, etc and some kind of HOF or parking in the triangle building.

  • Good stuff, Tom. Hopefully this is something the Cubs can take advantage of. We know Ricketts is always looking for new ways to bring in revenue and this seems to be the way to go lately. Not sure if the Cubs can get there own network, although it would be great if they could, but even just a better deal along what the Angels or Phillies got. So sad that we're behind the Padres deal.

  • WGN is the only channel in my area that carries Cubs games. If they lose the Cubs, I guess I would be forced to get the thing, but I'd rather watch the games on TV.

  • In reply to Cameron Macpherson:

    I can see them continuing something with WGN, maybe they could do a Cubs net with them in partnership somehow?

  • I really hope they stick with WGN. As a kid who didn't have cable I cant imagine never being able to see the cubs. Unfortunately, I don't know that WGN has the cash to pony up the big deal that the Cubs will need. Maybe they can work something out where the Cubs can make a decent amount and stay on WGN, but I suppose that won't happen until 2014 anyway. Personally I like Comcast, but I wonder if having 162 (i guess like 150 with saturday fox games and ESPN) Cubs games would interfere too much with their coverage of the Sox games.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    Oh man will Reinsdorf be pissed and jealous if Cubs get their own network :0

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    It can be the Cubs revenge for Reinsdorf finally putting his CBA plan through.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    If the Cubs were to leave Comcast the Cubs would essentially be giving Reinsdorf and the his Sox /Bulls partnership their own already up and running network.

    Reinsdorf would love nothing more than the Cubs to split off and do their own thing.

  • I wonder what type of deal they could get with the new NBC sports channel? I'm sure they have some bucks considering their merger with Comcast.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Hmmm, that could make them players for sure.

  • A CUB network would be a great revenue boost for the team, terrible for those of us who are "out of market." I grew up in Chicago but in between when I left and when I started to get cable I lost touch with Chicago sports to a certain extent. Now it gets worse every year (it seems like) as WGN does less games so they can schedule more sit-com reruns. I hardly watch the station any more. It looks like the Cubs will go the way of the Blackhawks - I get to see them if they happen to turn up on a network broadcast.

    Instead I live in the New York viewing area (though about as close to Boston and Toronto), so I have the Mets and Yankee stations - and they have total crap except for baseball games (actually they do run some other sports as well - I just don't care about the teams).

    One last thing: How many times do we see interviews in which players say they grew up watching the Cubs on WGN all over the country? I guess that will be a thing of the past too... Years ago in southern Arizona, I could watch hometown baseball coverage of about 5 teams, including the Cubs. Odd how the new deals actually decrease the availability of baseball on TV.

  • In reply to bruno14:

    I remember eagerly awaiting the Leadoff Man show. Lord knows how many Danley Garage commercials I've seen in my lifetime.

    Agree about them playing those WB sitcoms/teen drama shows all the time. Don't watch any of them. I hope there's some way to keep WGN on board but sometimes it seems like they've made their choice already if they're increasingly putting those shows ahead of the Cubs.

  • Yeah growing up in the 80's, you remember the Cubs, Braves, and Mets had an advantage by being on superstations like WGN, TBS, and WOR. I would find myself watching some Mets games just because.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Yeah - we had those and a couple California teams, including the Giants. on the basic package.

  • In reply to bruno14:

    Oh man! You got to see Chili Davis on a regular basis.

  • In reply to bruno14:

    I became a Braves fan in that time...not the Mets, though ;)

  • I was interested in watching a young Darryl Strawberry back then, oh what a waste of talent he and Gooden were. They had good careers, but could have been two of the greatest players of all time.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Gooden especially for me. High 90s heat and a slow knee buckling curve-- two unhittable pitches.

  • Up until 1998, when the Diamondbacks came into existence,every home Cubs home game was avaiable on KCKY AM out of Coolidge AZ and since I drive all day I heard every home was great..I just can't afford to get SiriusXM in all my work vehicles to listen everyday..,I do miss watching 150 Cubs games a year on WGN, it's crap. and it's a shame that Tom Ricketts has to wait 7 more years to fix this issue.

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I miss the games on WGN too. Would love to have them doing 150 games a year. That's the best case scenario but unfortunately it's probably a longshot.

  • I grew up within an hour of Royals Stadium in KC. I was a Royals fan up until the point that we got cable (funny to hear those who say they lost touch with Chicago Sports when they moved away from Chicago, as cable introduced me to the Cubs). The problem with being a Royals fan was that the games were only broadcast on a local KC station, and only the road games were aired. Back then, they were in the old AL West, which meant a lot of late night games for me.

    When we got cable, it changed everything. I could watch the Cubs at 1:20 or 3:05 every day at home, and they played more games on the east coast (earlier night games). I became a Cubs fan because of opportunity. Funny to think with the cable deals today, if they had been the same then as they are now, I wouldn't have been able to watch nearly as many Cubs games live, but would have been able to watch all of the Royals games, and probably would have stayed a fan of the Royals.

    With the way things are going, the Cubs need to do what can get them the most revenue. Tying themselves to WGN, while it appeases the traditionalists, won't generate as much revenue. And with the way we are moving in terms of subscription TV services, the Cubs can still keep a national audience.

    Somebody mentioned above. It's a great service, and this year includes a free download of the app for your phone. It's $120.00 (if you subscribed last year) for the whole season, and is perfect for me as I don't live within the Cubs' blackout range (that is the biggest thing to consider when thinking about ordering). You can still watch it on your TV if you've got a PS3 or XBox, and that's what I do every day. I highly recommend it.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    WGN as a "superstation" was really a key to the Cubs getting such a national following. It is a shame that will no longer be the case in some ways. But times have changed and people don't watch TV the same way anymore.

    I agree with you that the Cubs will find some way to keep their national audience.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Wow, good stuff Urge. Thanks for passing the info on as many of our readers are out of town Cubs fans.

  • Great job with the Cubs den, John and Tom. I've been reading and getting my Cubs fix all winter. This is my first post and have to agree I loved having the cubs on WGN. As a youngster, I loved being able to watch the Cubbies when I got home from school. Having them on WGN and in the afternoon is directly responsible for me being a fan. Not to mention I started watching them in '84, what a fun team! I truely hope they continue to air some games on WGN as it helps expose the team to people all over the country. I have to believe that when you see all these Cubs hats and jerseys in the stands when the Cubs play in Colorado, Arizona, LA, etc; some of these people watched on WGN.
    Keep up the great work on the Cubs Den!

  • In reply to Manny:

    Thanks so much Manny! Thanks for reading and '84 is my favorite team and there isn't a close 2nd. I hope WGN is involved somehow but I was told today the Cubs are investigating a way to do a Cubs Net.

  • In reply to Manny:

    Thanks Manny. I have some great memories of WGN. I think one of my most vivid was running home from school to find the Cubs were losing 17-6 to the Phillies. Cubs eventually tied the game at 22, then lost in the 10th inning on a MIke Schmidt HR.

    But no doubt 84 was one of my favorite years. The Cubs had never come close to winning anything in my lifetime. Was just great to watch them win game after game for the first time.

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    I'm also an out of towner (NC now, Memphis the last 5 years, and Atlanta before that). I've done MLBtv a couple of times, and wanted to throw in my two cents.

    Overall I like it, but the blackouts get really annoying. When I was in Memphis (the beginning of last summer), Braves, Reds, and Cardinals games were blacked out. When we moved to NC mid-summer, Braves, Reds, and Nationals games were blacked out. So anytime the Cubs play those teams, I can't watch.

    The main reason I do it is we quit cable a few years ago, since the main reason I had it was to watch Baseball. So this was much cheaper and I got more games. I hook up my laptop to the flat screen TV so I can still watch the games on TV, and the quality is pretty decent.

    The only thing I really miss is Baseball Tonight, and now that there's an MLB network, I would watch that all the time. But oh well.

  • In reply to brober34:

    Yeah I really enjoy some of MLB network, I plan on doing a post about Clubhouse Confidential, and I've enjoyed Hot Stove at times.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I love those shows. Intentional Talk as well. I can see why Millar was such a popular teammate.

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    I'm also a Cubs fan largely because of WGN carrying all the games when I was a kid. My fam moved to Chicago in '82, and sometime that summer I turned on a game, they won, and I decided they were my new team (I was 7 - formerly a Tigers fan). I always looked forward to getting home from school to watch games, especially in '84. I even remember wondering who I would root for if it were a Tigers Cubs WS that year.

    But in the end, it's about a big TV deal, and if they can't get that from WGN, I guess they need to move on.

  • Wow bringing back the memories, '82 was the first year I watched an entire season.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    In '82 I was at about half the weekend home games in the right field bleachers. I was sometimes lucky enough to sit behind Bill Veeck and listen in to his stories.

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    When the Ricketts and Tribune Company were negotiating the the purchase of the team the Ricketts discovered that the Tribune company a year prior had written favorable contract extensions with itself for both the radio and television broadcasts. If you will recall this is why the purchase price of the team fell from $900 million to $845 million. The Ricketts demanded a lower purchase price for the team because the Tribune Company screwed the new owners on the broadcast rights contracts going forward.

  • In reply to Northside Neuman:

    Good for TR on that move, it's a shame they are apparently stuck with these below market deals for now.

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