Chicago Cubs to leave WGN Radio; head to WBBM-AM

Chicago CubsWelcome the newest member of the CBS family – the Chicago Cubs.

After 56 years, the Chicago Cubs are moving to a new radio home – Newsradio 780, or WBBM-AM, which is long been speculated.

A press conference has been scheduled for Thursday morning at Wrigley Field to announced the new, seven-year deal between the team and the CBS-owned radio station, beginning in 2015.

The broadcast team of Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer are expected to be retained.

WGN-AM, which has carried Cubs broadcasts since the 1920’s (with an exception of a stint at WIND-AM in the mid-1950’s) passed on a new deal, claiming the team’s radio rights have lost the radio station money over the years and the team’s 197 losses over two seasons certainly hasn’t helped.

The move is reminiscent of what happened twenty years ago when CBS lost the National Football Conference contract to then-upstart Fox network, ending a 37-year run with the network. Then-CBS Chairman Laurence Tisch noted the financial dealings didn’t make sense – the same line WGN-AM president and general manager Jimmy DeCastro officials are saying.

And now CBS – which got the NFL back in 1998 – is now expanding its sports print by acquiring the rights to the Chicago Cubs – which would have seemed unthinkable just a decade ago as the Cubs and WGN Radio were owned by Tribune.

After the Ricketts family bought the team from Tribune in 2009, the family made deals to keep the Cubs on WGN Radio and TV. But the Cubs’ fortunes have worsened, as the popularity of baseball has waned, losing out in a more competitive media marketplace – even in Chicago. Tribune started losing money on the deal no sooner than the ink had dried on the contract. And so WGN decided to opt out of the current deal to renegotiate.

But CBS offered a whole lot more in its pitch – in addition to WBBM-AM and WCFS-FM (105.9 FM) carrying the games, they could use CBS’ other radio properties to cross-promote Cubs-sponsored events, concerts at Wrigley Field, and other events through its four other Chicago radio stations.

An ideal partner would be Adult Album Alternative (Triple A) outlet WXRT-FM, whose audience would be a good fit with Cubs programming.

CBS now has three Chicago teams in its stable – White Sox, Bears, and now the Cubs.