Two big stories have broken in the past week regarding the broadcast of games for Chicago baseball teams.
First, WGN America announced that they were dropping Cubs and White Sox broadcasts entirely, terminating with the end of the 2014 season. WGN is the superstation that so many of us watched Cubs games on when we first got cable two or three decades ago. WGN Superstation signed onto the a … or, cable … in 1978, and Cubs games were a staple of the schedule. Lots of people between the ages of 30 and 45 remember coming home from school, flipping on the Superstation and hearing Harry Caray and Steve Stone (and sometimes Milo Hamilton, Thom Brennaman or DeWayne Staats) regaling viewers and seeing beauty shots of historic Wrigley Field. It’s the sole reason many out of towners became Cubs fans in the first place. In 1990 WGN started running the White Sox as well, and although many fewer non-Chicagoans became Sox fans as a result, it did provide them a national platform few other teams could claim.
But in the brave new world of new media, with MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV at our easy disposal, WGN America has slipped into irrelevancy when considering on which channel to watch Cubs and White Sox games. Despite that WGN America is running 71 Cubs game and 32 White Sox in 2014, the decision comes down to ratings. That is, neither the Cubs nor Sox generate sufficient ratings to justify continuing to air them. And so WGN America-slash-Superstation is focusing their efforts on another general audience basic cable network because, you know, we need another one of those.
Read more about this here:
On the radio front, it’s the Cubs doing the dropping as they have informed WGN radio that they no longer wish to continue their 90-year marriage, with the Cubs moving to WBBM-AM starting in 2015. Itself a 50,000 watt station with multiple state coverage, in theory the Cubs should not lose anything in the way of listenership with the move. But again, in this age of online radio coverage (especially through MLB’s super popular At Bat app) coupled with baseball games broadcast on satellite radio giant SiriusXM, it may not be an altogether relevant change. Don’t feel too bad for WGN for getting shut out by the Cubs, though: they precipitated the move by exercising their contractual option to re-do the deal to keep the team on, because of low ratings brought on by a frankly terrible team that locals are losing interest in, in droves.
Read more about this move here:
One unintended effect of these two moves is that it completely screws up the Cubs anthem played in the ballpark whenever the team wins. The song, “Go Cubs Go” by Steve , mentions WGN explicitly in the title, although to be fair, this anthem is already fouled up since it suggests that you can “catch [all the action] on WGN”, which hasn’t been true on the TV side of the house for twenty years now.