Monday, February 8, 2010

TV rights and revenue and John Grabow

For the second time in 3 days, Bruce Levine of ESPN has posted an outstanding story.  Today's bit is about Chicago baseball and TV revenues.

Since the Ricketts' had entered exclusive negotiations with the Tribune Co. about the sale of the team, speculation has run rampant about what the Cubs actual deals are as far as TV rights.

Last week the TV schedule was released, and many people were upset that only 60 games were going to be on WGN in 2010.  Why have the Cubs continued to move more and more games off the superstation?  Levine basically states that the Cubs make almost $300,000 off of each game broadcast on almost 100 games a year on that station, the pushes the total up to $30 million for the year.

Levine also makes the statement that we all already know...that the Cubs would like to start their own TV network similar to what the Yankees have done.  The problem is that the Cubs have long term commitments to CSN and, more importantly, WGN.  How long?  Well, most details on the TV and radio rights have been issues of much speculation over the years.  Supposedly, the Cubs contract with WGN before the sale to the Ricketts' was to run until 2022. The agreement reached during the sale states the following:

Under the broadcast agreements to be entered into as part of the Proposed Business Combination, WGN will continue to have radio and television broadcast rights for Cubs baseball games until October 31, 2022, subject to earlier earlier termination under limited circumstances. 

We also know that the Cubs are getting more money from WGN TV and radio this year for broadcasting games. (That was one of the delays in the sale of the team, as the two sides negotiated the value of the broadcast rights.) I'm sure the Ricketts' would have loved to have had those broadcast rights eliminated, but considering that the Tribune is under such huge financial stress, I would image that this was not possible...the Cubs are vital to the financial security of both WGN radio and TV. 

For the Cubs, it is important for them to proceed forward with the all Cubs network...but when could that happen?  Well, while it has been mentioned by the Ricketts' and Crane Kenney, it appears, presently, to be nowhere on the radar screen.  Obviously they want to deal with the spring training facility and the Wrigley Field renovations first.  Once those things are out of the way (scheduled to be complete by 2014), they could look to begin the process of negotiating out of their broadcasting contracts and forming their network. That's pure speculation...I really have no idea.  But it seems like a logical plan.

Anyway, while I do have issues with the MLB blackout policies, I am fine with the fact that the Cubs continue to have more games broadcast on CSN because it means more money for the team to spend on players like John Grabow.  Blah.