CW 26 to air Cubs exhibition game March 12

A promo of a Cubs-Brewers spring training game, airing during a HS basketball game Monday night on The U.

Could be a dress rehearsal for more

According to a report in the Sun-Times, Weigel’s CW 26 (or WCIU) announced Monday it is televising a Chicago Cubs spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers on March 12 at 8 p.m.

The game will be simulcast on Marquee Sports Network, the home of all Cubs games since 2020 a year after the team left its longtime WGN-TV home after 72 years. Games were also seen on ABC-owned WLS-TV and NBC Sports Chicago. This marks the first time Marquee has sublet a game to another station in the Chicago market as the team is looking to promote the channel.

 “We’re looking forward to collaborating with Weigel on our game broadcast next Tuesday, giving Cubs viewers across the Chicago and South Bend regions additional opportunities to watch Cubs baseball and see all that Marquee Sports Network’s game broadcasts have to offer, highlighting our free Spring Training promotional offer,” said Marquee Sports Network Senior Vice President Robin Mulvaney in a statement.

 “It’s great to share Cubs baseball with our viewers in both Chicago and South Bend,” said Senior Vice President Steve Farber of Weigel Broadcasting Co. in the same statement. “This is a real ‘W’ for fans across the Midwest.”

The U – the sister station to CW 26, promoted Cubs-Brewers Monday evening during a high school basketball game.

Cubs games once aired on WCIU but as a time buy by WGN, who also used the Weigel-owned station to air Bulls and White Sox games due to commitments for The WB network programming and later The CW. In 2015, WGN shifted those telecasts to WPWR-TV.

If this experiment is successful, it could lead to more spring training or even a handful of regular-season games on CW 26. Last year, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV aired a similar simulcast with sister NBC Sports Chicago one regular-season Bulls and Blackhawks game each. This comes as teams are looking for a new way to reach fans as sky-high cable and satellite bills led viewers to cut the cord. The Arizona Coyotes, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and Vegas Golden Knights already have a combination of direct-to-consumer streaming and over-the-air deals as their regional sports networks in their towns went out of business. Marquee offered such a DTC option starting last year.

This move is interesting as we may soon see a realignment in local TV. For one, NBC Sports Chicago’s contract with the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox ends on or around October 1, as all three teams may be looking at other options including a combination of over-the-air, direct-to-consumer, and cable, including staying with their current home.

Meanwhile, it’s been speculated that WGN could regain the CW affiliation from WCIU since parent Nexstar purchased 75 percent of the network from now-minority partners Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery as Nexstar moved The CW to some of its stations after CBS dropped the network from its now-independent stations last September and is still looking to do so, if applicable. WGN already airs sporting events from The CW including ACC football and basketball and will air NASCAR Xfinity series races next year after WCIU passed on LIV Golf.

WGN aired CW programming from 2006 to 2016, when it became an independent again, focusing on local sports. But that dried up when the Cubs went to Marquee and NBC Sports Chicago signed exclusive deals with its three teams. WGN later aired Chicago Fire games until MLS struck an exclusive deal with Apple TV. WCIU has been a CW affiliate since 2019 after three unsuccessful years at WPWR.

If (or when) WCIU loses rights to CW programming, they have a stable of sports now airing on The U to fill those prime-time slots, including Chicago Red Stars (women’s) soccer, high-school sports, and WNBA’s Chicago Sky. Earlier, Weigel’s Milwaukee independent WMLW agreed to air ten Bucks games this season.

[Updated 2:45 p.m.]

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