SBD/August 1, 2013/Media

Cubs' Negotiations With WGN Ramping Up As Team Ponders Future For Its TV Rights

Some experts believe the Cubs could launch their own TV network
The Cubs' media rights negotiations with WGN-TV are "expected to heat up" in the coming months, with the team's "chance to cash in on exploding local TV rights fees" at stake, according to Ed Sherman of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The current pact runs through '22, but the Cubs plan on "exercising a clause to opt out after the 2014 season." The value of the Cubs' package with WGN, estimated at $20M annually for 70 games, "feels like utility infielder money." Some projections "have the Cubs receiving" as much as $80M annually for those games. The team's other games will be on Comcast SportsNet Chicago through at least '19. A provision in the current contract "allows WGN to extend the Cubs rights by paying 'fair market value.'" However, that "seems difficult to determine because there isn't a comparable arrangement in baseball." The other recent deals "were for cable, while WGN operates as a free, over-the-air signal in Chicago." Sherman: "Would the Cubs forsake the exposure of being in 75 million homes through WGN America?" Experts believe that the Cubs would "leave WGN if they could get more money elsewhere," as national exposure "won't buy high-priced free agents." TV observers said that the Cubs "have enough of a fan base to follow the lead of the Yankees and Red Sox and start their own network." However, the Cubs "can't go on board with their own network until their CSN deal runs out" in '19 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/31).
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