Category Archives: Television

Big Changes for Chicago Team Broadcasts

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:

WGN America to drop Chicago sports

Report: WGN America To Drop Cubs, Chicago Sports Programming

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:

Cubs dropping WGN Radio for WBBM-AM

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.

Radio move from WGN fouls up ‘Go, Cubs, Go’ anthem

 

How Did Five Teams Get Shut Out of Fox Baseball Broadcasts For 2014?

With the release of the baseball broadcast schedules by Fox for their broadcast network and nascent FS1 property, a counting of appearances by the various teams yields some unsurprising results (e.g., the Yankees lead all teams with 11 appearances; the Cardinals lead Senior Circuit teams with ten).

But not all results are unsurprises.  Some are very surprising indeed, as you will see from this table shared with the world by the folks at Awful Announcing (click on the table to go to the article):

MLB on Fox-FS1 Appearances by Team 2014

Some surprises include the Indians, Pirates and Nationals all outpulling the star-laden Dodgers; and the Mets, non-contenders though they may be but still occupying the nation’s #1 DMA last we checked, represented by a single telecast along with the A’s and the Marlins.

But the most surprising factoid gleaned from the schedule is that fully 16.67% of all major league teams will not be appearing on a single telecast on either the FS1 network or the Fox broadcast network.  The absence of the Blue Jays from an American Broadcasting network can be rationalized, of course, and the Astros and Rockies expect to be various shades of awful and anonymous.  But the White Sox?  Even if they end up being a poor team, a complete whitewash of a #3 DMA major league ballclub is something of a surprise.  And both Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez will make no impact on the baseball ratings of national Fox telecasting entities at any point this season, as well.

Of course, in this world of baseball broadcast ubiquity via streaming and subscription packages, it’s not as though practically every game any of these five shut out teams play won’t be available in those forms anyway.  But what kind of statement does it make for so many teams to be unrepresented in this way?  It means either Fox puts so little stock in these franchises that they can’t risk broadcasting them at any point on their national networks, or perhaps it means that national or regional exposure on these networks means not much if not nothing anyway.