|What would Harry Caray say about a Cubs-WGN divorce? (Getty Images)|
Is a televised Cubs game really a televised Cubs game if it doesn't appear on WGN? That might be a question we're forced to answer on a daily basis (never mind the Cubs' occasional Chicagoland appearance on Comcast). As Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes, the Cubs' contract with WGN will expire after the 2014 season, and it's possible -- maybe even likely -- that the Cubs will make their television home elsewhere.
"Obviously, local media rights have been increasing in value," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told Sullivan. "Hopefully at some point, we will be able to get more value for our media rights. It's just something that's playing out over time."
Once the Tribune Company, which owns WGN, sold the Cubs, such a crossroads was probably inevitable. Moreover, as the Dodgers and other teams have proved, local-television contracts are infinitely more valuable these days than they have been at any point in the past. That's thanks in large part to sports-progamming's status as the last reliable bastion for television advertising (we watch our sports live, generally speaking, so we can't fast-forward through the commercials). The Cubs are well within their rights to strike a deal with another network, and nostalgia should have no place at the table of such high-level negotiations.
Still, as Sullivan notes, the Cubs and WGN have been together since way back yonder in 1948. Moving telecasts elsewhere would certainly strike a blow against that indelible "Cubs culture" even if it improves the balance sheet at the same time.
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