The Chicago Cubs may end up leaving their flagship TV station WGN after the 2014 season reports the Chicago Tribune. The Cubs have been on WGN since 1948, becoming popular across the nation (much like the Atlanta Braves around the same time period) due to their flagship network's status as a superstation broadcasting nationally.
But much like the Braves leaving TBS in the mid-00s, all good things must come to an end. Thanks to the increased money involved with local cable outlets and soaring broadcast rights, including the incredible cash windfall the Dodgers are receiving in their new agreement, teams are chasing huge television dollars .
The Cubs confirmed they're putting their games that currently air on WGN on the open market and will look to get a substantial increase in broadcast rights. Where will the Cubs end up landing if they leave WGN? The choice seems obvious: CSN Chicago are favorites to land the entire Cubs schedule. The Ricketts family, who purchased the Cubs in 2009, acquired 20% of CSN Chicago in the sale. However, CSN Chicago has a glut of programming, including most White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks games that would directly impact the Cubs. The easiest solution is to put one game on CSN and one on CSN Plus (which is what MASN does with the Orioles and Nationals), but it's still hundreds of games to squeeze in with such a big market.
The other logical option for the Cubs is to start their own network. This has been kicked around for years now, and the Yankees, Mets, and Dodgers have definitely given the Cubs a blueprint to work from. You'd think a Cubs network would gain a lot of traction nationally due to the team's popularity, and if the Ricketts family could get it positioned like YES, they'd be in great shape. But, that can't happen until CSN Chicago's portion of the Cubs rights expire in 2019.
For now, CSN Chicago looks like the slight favorite in my book to capture all Cubs games, if only because of the Ricketts' ownership in the network and the fact that WGN will have to pay a significant increase for Cubs rights. This could represent the end of an era for WGN and Cubs fans around the country. Teams are going to search for every dollar they can in broadcast rights in order to keep up with the likes of the Dodgers and Yankees. If that means leaving behind a national audience and moving games to the highest bidder, so be it.