SBD/June 3, 2014/Media

WGN America Dropping Chicago Sports Due To Minimal Ad Revenue, Lack Of National Interest

WGN execs believe Chicago teams lose their attraction outside the local market
Tribune Co. President & CEO Peter Liguori is "in the process of converting” WGN America from a “superstation into a basic cable channel, which is mainly a technical transition, except that it will require dumping Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox game broadcasts,” according to Lynne Marek of CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS. Liguori: “If the Cubs continue on this path to virtual irrelevancy, it's really not going to matter. When you look at the Bulls, the White Sox, the Cubs and the Blackhawks, outside of the greater Chicago, they really do lose their attraction.” Liguori said that advertising income from sports programming "contributes just $250,000 to income.” Marek noted that is less than 1% of Tribune’s $234.3M in “operating profit last year.” Meanwhile, WGN-CW and WGN-AM “continue to negotiate with the Cubs on a new contract.” WGN-CW “reached a new broadcast rights agreement for at least another five seasons" with the Blackhawks last month. Liguori said that sports ad revenue is “penny ante compared to what WGN America might take in” from airing original content like “Salem,” which began airing in April. Liguori: “We will be way, way, way far ahead as a basic cable network without sports than staying in our current state” (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 5/30).

HUGHES NOT GOING ANYWHERE: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes "wherever the Cubs land," radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes is "certain to return" in '15 for the final year of his contract. But negotiations on an extension will "have to wait until the new station is announced." Hughes has been a WGN employee "since leaving the Brewers' booth" in '96. WGN-AM, which aired its first live baseball broadcast in '24, has been the "exclusive radio home of the Cubs" since '58 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/3).
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