Today, the Chicago Cubs announced CBS Radio’s all-news station WBBM-AM 780 as its new radio flagship beginning in 2015. Now that everything is official, here are a few additional thoughts and observations, following-up from my post yesterday.
Not only did CBS Radio offer the cash money that the Cubs wanted, but this the new deal between the two entities entails a huge marketing and entertainment opportunity beyond sports. The Cub’s soon to be former radio flagship, WGN-AM 720, simply could not match what CBS was willing (or unable) to offer. While I don’t know if CBS Radio will or won’t eventually regret this long-term agreement, I do understand why WGN decided that continuing to air Cubs games under the current deal was undesirable, if not infeasible. I don’t blame them for attempting to renegotiate or for not matching what CBS offered.
Before today’s announcement, I’ve been wondering if Cub games will also air on WBBM’s simulcast, WCFS-FM 105.9. While the official WBBM “Cubs Radio” logo shows both 780 AM and 105.9 FM, neither news releases by CBS Radio or the Cubs mention WCFS or that the games will specifically be airing on FM.
Assuming that CBS is opting to only air Cub games on 780 AM will allow otherwise displaced WBBM listeners to still receive their news, traffic and weather without any interruptions on 105.9 FM. Very easy — no apps or data necessary! This is absolutely brilliant while at the same time, somewhat of a blow to WLS-AM 890 and WGN which certainly would have benefited if the Cubs were on 780 AM and 105.9 FM.
Yesterday, I wondered how the Cubs moving to WBBM might impact the White Sox and their relationship with CBS Radio’s all-sports WSCR-AM/670 The Score. Since the new deal with the Cubs encompasses cross promotion on CBS Radio’s other Chicago outlets, it is reasonable to assume that various Cub promotions, specialty shows and anything else may eventually surface on The Score. While all that could happen and still not infringe on The Score’s coverage of the White Sox, I can imagine White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf not being too happy.
When the Sox previously were on WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 in the 2000s, the station pulled a stunt by launching a Sunday morning all-Cubs show, “Inside the Cubs,” hosted by Tom Shaer. It was acknowledged on air during an “Ask the General Manager” show, with then ESPN 1000 General Manager Tom Snyder, that Reinsdorf specifically asked why his flagship station was devoting two hours every Sunday morning to the Cubs (Reinsdorf by that point, had other reasons to be unhappy with ESPN 1000 — the Sox moved to WSCR in 2006 and the Bulls for a short while moved to the former WCKG-FM 105.9).
Any potential unhappiness on the part of Reinsdorf towards CBS Radio and The Score, at this point, is only my own speculation. If The Score doesn’t become overly obsessed with the Cubs, and if CBS Radio and The Score shows sincere interest in renewing their deal with the White Sox prior to 2016, Reinsdorf could opt to stay put.
That said, it is glaringly obvious how excited CBS Radio appears to be over bringing the Cubs on-board. That excitement level didn’t seemingly exist on a corporate level for CBS when they brought the Sox over in 2006 (it was however, a significant add for The Score, which at that point, had yet to flagship a professional level Chicago sports franchise). While things are much different now than they were when the Sox moved to The Score, there is no doubt that the Cubs and the Bears will be the two golden franchises, sports wise, in the Chicago cluster of CBS Radio.
As a Sox fan, I get it. The Cubs are, overall, more unique of a team. They also have far more popularity statewide.
It will be interesting to see where on the dial the White Sox might be come 2016. I believe WGN President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro when he said he’d be interested in bringing the Sox to 720 AM. I also wouldn’t be surprised if ESPN 1000 made an attempt to win them back. As I’ve previously mentioned on this site, I’m not a fan of the current Sox radio broadcasters. If a new station came on board and was willing to make a much needed upgrade within the broadcast booth, I’d be all for it.
One aspect of the Cubs radio move that humors me are how distraught some WGN listeners are (see comments on WGN’s Facebook. I won’t say that having an affinity for listening to the Cubs on WGN is silly or stupid, but allowing yourself to get upset about a baseball team no longer airing on their longtime radio station is absolutely absurd. Many of these harsh feelings likely carry over from the station’s recent unpopular decision to move afternoon host Garry Meier off 720 AM and onto the online stream WGN.FM. While WGN is facing some bad PR due to the Meier move and now the loss of the Cubs, at the end of the day, changing the dial from 720 to 780 to hear a baseball game is not a big deal. Cubs broadcasts in 2015 will sound exactly the same. Relax!
As for the White Sox, if their games do eventually surface on WGN, I swear, I’ll swerve off the road the first time I hear Dave Eanet sports update beginning with a “and now, your WGN White Sox update.”