SBD/29/Sports Media

HOLY COW! WGN SCALES BACK CUBS BROADCASTS DUE TO "ECONOMICS"

          WGN-TV will televise 92 Cubs games during the '98
     season -- about 50 fewer than last year, according to
     Hirsley & Jones of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE.  The station
     "characterized the decision as TV baseball history squeezed
     by TV baseball economics: The Cubs need to be taken off WGN
     at times for their own good."  Hirsley & Jones: "Lower-rated
     baseball broadcasts need to be replaced by higher-rated
     entertainment shows so those programs can generate more ad
     revenues to pay higher baseball bills as the cost of
     fielding a competitive team continues to escalate."  While
     Cubs games averaged a 4.7 rating last season, programs like
     "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Dawson's Creek" receive
     higher ratings.  Most of the games taken off WGN will be
     moved to CLTV, the Cubs' local cable partner, also owned by
     Tribune Co.  But Hirsley & Jones note that CLTV's signal
     "doesn't reach beyond the immediate Chicago area," and added
     that "about" 30% of Chicago-area viewers don't have cable.
     Tribune Broadcasting Co. President Dennis FitzSimons:
     "Ultimately, the Cubs have to be competitive in terms of
     revenue they can generate for telecast rights if they're
     going to put a competitive team on the field."  FitzSimons
     "stressed" that WGN still will carry more MLB games than any
     over-the-air station this year.  FitzSimons: "Advertising
     budgets are not designed to support a 140-game (broadcast)
     schedule.  There's a reason why no other (non-cable) station
     is carrying [92] games" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/29).  Also in
     Chicago, Dave Van Dyck writes, "Where the Cubs will be hurt
     is in the marketing of a team that built itself through ivy-
     walled, sunny afternoon baseball on free TV."   In addition
     to Cubs games, WGN will show 52 White Sox games and
     "several" end-of-season Bulls games (SUN-TIMES, 1/29).
          AND BUFFY? Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, on being
     replaced by programming like "Buffy": "Well, hell, I'm more
     attractive than Buffy. ... Oh yeah.  She's a gorgeous hunk
     of a woman.  She may be good-looking, but she doesn't have
     anything to do with baseball" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/29).

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