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Cubs, WLS-Ch. 7 Have Deal For 25 Games Through 2019

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Now this qualifies as a surprise.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

UPDATE: This deal is now official. See the comments for the full text of the press release from the Cubs.

Earlier Thursday, I posted here about the Cubs getting close to a deal with WGN-TV to air approximately 45 games beginning in 2015.

There was some question about whether WGN-TV or another broadcast outlet in the market would pick up the remaining games that had been on WGN's schedule through 2014. Now, Robert Channick reports in the Tribune about a completely unexpected over-the-air broadcast partner:

In a surprise move, the Cubs are about to strike a deal with WLS-Ch.7 to broadcast a portion of the team's schedule through 2019.

The ABC-owned station is expected to carry 25 games per season beginning in April. The station would have its pick of games, which would air in primetime, daytime and weekends. The deal is expected to be finalized within days, according to sources.

At no time was ABC-7 ever mentioned as a possible outlet for Cubs games and it's exceedingly rare in this day and age for a network-owned TV station to air local sports of any kind. The station is also where I worked from 1981 through 2009.

It appears, based on Channick's article, that WGN-TV is still going to be in the mix for the 45 or so games mentioned earlier:

Where the balance of next season's television schedule ends up remains to be seen, but sources say WGN or CSN may pick up the remaining displaced games.

The team has been exploring moving some portion of the TV schedule over to CSN, in which the Cubs have a stake, according to sources.

I'd say that most likely, the ABC-7 games would air during summer months when reruns would otherwise take up the prime-time schedule, or on weekends in the same months when there's little or no national sports coverage on the ABC network.

Most likely, then, we're going to see 80 or so games on CSN Chicago, 45 or so games on WGN-TV, and 25 or so on ABC-7, with the remainder airing on the national networks (Fox or ESPN). You'll still need a channel guide, which I'll provide here at BCB, for every game, given three local broadcast partners.

The question of how people in the blackout areas will be able to watch Cubs games they formerly received via WGN America is still open. The team could contract with local broadcast digital subchannels in various Illinois, Indiana and Iowa markets as they did the last couple of years for games that aired on WCIU. These are the subchannels in those states that carried Cubs games: Springfield/Decatur/Champaign, WCIX 49.2; Peoria, WAOE 59.1; Des Moines, WHO 13.2; Quad Cities (Davenport/Moline), WQAD 8.2 or 8.3; Ft. Wayne, WANE 15.2; South Bend, WMYS 69; Rockford, WTVO 17.2 and Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City-Dubuque, KCRG 9.2.

Once again, this is news that really does qualify as "news," as it surprised me and likely surprises you.