Chicago Cubs leaving WGN radio

Updated: June 4, 2014, 2:13 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- After 90 years and no World Series victories, the Chicago Cubs and WGN radio are going their separate ways.

The Cubs will announce a new, seven-year deal to broadcast games on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM on Thursday, according to media reports. The deal starts next season.

After 197 losses in two seasons, WGN used an opt-out clause in its contract due to declining ratings and revenue last fall, and couldn't come to terms with the Cubs on a new deal.

[+] EnlargeHarry Caray
AP PhotoHarry Caray was a staple of Chicago Cubs broadcasts on both WGN radio and television from 1982-97.

"We're very proud of our long-time association with the Cubs, but it has to make good business sense and the current arrangement does not," WGN radio president and general manager Jimmy de Castro said Wednesday morning on 87.7 The Game.

The deal with WGN, which was believed to be for $10 million a year, was inherited from when Sam Zell sold the Cubs to the Ricketts family in 2009, and "payment rights for the Cubs broadcast have doubled since that time," de Castro said Wednesday.

De Castro also noted that several weekend games late in the 2013 season showed no ratings points, as measured by the meter system.

De Castro said WGN radio presented the Cubs "with four or five" different deal structures to lessen the financial load on the radio station, but the Cubs weren't interested. One deal included the Cubs handling all the advertising and broadcast rights, while WGN simply aired the games for a minimal fee. Another included equity in the radio station.

Instead, the Cubs reportedly chose an "all-cash" deal with WBBM, which is the lead station of a CBS cluster in town that includes all-sports 670 The Score.

The first regular-season Cubs game aired on WGN on April 14, 1925, nearly four years after the first baseball game was heard on the radio on KDKA in Pittsburgh and more than 16 years after the Cubs' last World Series. The Cubs had been on WGN continuously since 1958.

The Cubs might be leaving WGN-TV after this season as well, having opted out of that deal after last season. WGN-TV airs 70 games a season.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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