It looks like the Cubs are staying on WGN-TV after all.
According to the Chicago Tribune, The Tribune Media-owned station are now in advanced talks to acquire the remaining 45 games now on the market. WGN had been carrying Cubs games since 1948. An official announcement is expected later this week. (UPDATE: The deal is now official.)
Earlier, ABC-owned WLS-TV acquired a package of 25 games, to likely air on weekends.
Both deals last five seasons, and each expire in September 2019.
All 45 games are only on WGN, as opposed to farming out a few games to WCIU, as WGN has done in the past. As expected, WGN America is not included in the deal, and will not carry any Cubs baseball, ending a 36-year run (out-of-town Cubs fans can still watch their team through MLB’s Extra Innings package or MLB.com.) WGN America recently became available to Chicago-area Comcast subscribers for the first time.
Also, announcers Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies now become employees of the Cubs organization, meaning they would be calling games not only on WGN and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, but WLS as well.
WGN was reportedly losing $200,000 a game – or roughly $14 million last year carrying 70 games. The reduction works in WGN’s favor as the station would not pay as much and it frees up more time for other programming commitments, including primetime CW programming.
As recently as the 1993 season, WGN carried around 150 games. The number has been vastly reduced due to WGN joining the WB (which merged with UPN to become the CW in 2006) and the Cubs cutting deals with Fox Sports Net and later Comcast SportsNet, who holds cable rights until September 2019.
With the broadcast and cable deals now synced up to end at the same time, the Cubs are now in a better position to launch its own regional sports network in 2020.
Updated on 2015-01-08.