WGN Says Cubs Radio Deal Didn’t Make Economic Sense

Harry Carey and Richard M. Daley

The Chicago Cubs are ending their partnership with WGN Radio, one of the longest such relationships in broadcast history.

WGN Radio president Jimmy de Castro confirmed Wednesday media reports that the Cubs are leaving the station after this season. The radio station has been the Cubs' radio home for 90 years.

De Castro told MLB.com that it didn't make sense, business-wise, to stick with AM radio.

"It's not that we don't love the Cubs," de Castro said. "It's that it just doesn't make business sense on an AM radio station given today's new media opportunities and ways for advertisers to buy the Cubs."

The Cubs say they'll hold a news conference Thursday at Wrigley Field to announce a long-term broadcast deal with CBS-owned WBBM-AM. Cubs announcers Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer are expected to continue calling the team's games.

De Castro says parting ways was a difficult decision for the station. But he says the decision was made after the station determined the business deal the Cubs insisted on did not make economic sense for the station, which first broadcast the team's games in 1925.

"We're still going to be associated with the Cubs," de Castro said. "We still think it's going to be a big, big part of our platform. We're still going to spring training."

The Cubs haven't had a winning team for several years, losing 288 games over the last three years, which has affected advertising revenue, according to de Castro. As a result, the radio station has lost money and would have continued to lose money had the team decided to renew its contract with the broadcast outlet.

The station exercised an opt-out provision in the contract last fall due to falling ratings and revenue. That move followed the Cubs' decision to opt out of their WGN-TV deal to seek better long-term regional TV rights fees.

WGN parent Tribune Co. recently announced the company's intention to stop televising Chicago sports nationally on WGN America as it converts it to a basic cable channel from a superstation.

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