SBD/June 6, 2014/Media

With Concert Plan In New Radio Deal, Cubs Looking To Boost Non-Shared Revenue

The Cubs on Thursday officially signed a new seven-year radio-rights deal with WBBM-AM, and "maybe the most significant part ... is the expanded, '50-50 partnership' on concert staging and overall event promotion, which figures to increase the number of concerts at Wrigley Field and includes concert dates at the new spring ballpark in Arizona," according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. While the concert element adds "significant potential value to the overall deal for both sides, it also provides the Cubs with a potential shelter for some of their local revenue from the MLB revenue-sharing system into which the Cubs have historically been a large contributor." Neither the team nor WBBM parent company CBS Radio "have made the breakdown of the rights deal public," but depending on how much of CBS Radio's contribution "is tied to the concert/events promotions part of the deal, the Cubs might be able to demonstrate no increase in rights fees and thereby avoid a one-time uptick in revenue calculations for a 'new broadcast adjustment' as outlined in the revenue-sharing system." CBS Radio execs said that the Cubs "will air almost exclusively on" WBBM-AM with sister station WBBM-FM "remaining an all-news station, without simulcasts of the Cubs." However, CBS Radio GM Rod Zimmerman said that conflicts with Bears games "would shift the Cubs to the FM station" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/6). CBS Radio execs promised that they "will promote the Cubs across all seven" of their Chicago-based stations. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said the move to shift from WGN-AM to WBBM-AM was a "tough decision for us." In Chicago, Robert Channick notes the team "did not take the opportunity to discuss TV plans." WGN has been the Cubs' TV partner since '48 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/6).

BETTING ON THE FUTURE: In Illinois, Bruce Miles writes the "best news for Cubs fans is that play-by-play man Pat Hughes and color analyst Ron Coomer will make the jump down the dial" to WBBM-AM, "providing fans with best baseball repartee around." So for Cubs fans "interested in only listening to Cubs games, this is really no big deal, except for the emotional attachment some might have" to WGN-AM (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 6/6). In Chicago, Ed Sherman writes Zimmerman "showed he definitely is drinking the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer Kool-Aid" during the news conference, as he and CBS Radio "are betting big money that the laborious rebuilding project will deliver big results during the length of the deal." This much is "certain: WBBM is getting in on the ground floor -- or lower -- with the Cubs in terms in fan interest." However, the prospect of "being the flagship station is enormous, even if they only become a wild-card team." Zimmerman: "The Cubs have a huge relationship with this marketplace. ... If they ever get to the World Series, it will be the biggest story in sports" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/6).
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