Friday, I posted here about the 25-game deal signed between the Cubs and WLS-Ch. 7 that will air games on the network owned-and-operated station for five seasons through 2019.
Now, there are further details about the deal, and these two seem the most significant. The quote is from ABC7's president and general manager, John Idler:
While the network has signed off on the deal, ABC 7 will air most of the games on the weekends, to avoid disruption of a busy prime-time schedule, Idler said. "We have a number of games that we're going to be having in prime time," Idler said. "But Saturday and Sunday are certainly easier, from a network standpoint ... to run those games."
This makes sense. 25 games a year comes to an average of approximately one per week. There could be some prime-time weeknight games during the summer when network programming consists primarily of reruns, while the weekend games could run during times when ABC7 would otherwise be running non-sports programming. During the spring, summer and early fall, the only major sports programs on ABC are NBA games, which run Sunday afternoons during the regular season and at various times during the NBA playoffs, which end in mid-June.
Second, and more important to Cubs fans:
ABC 7 is allowed to market its 25-game package to other regional TV stations, Idler said, which would open up the broadcasts to viewers outside of the Chicago market.
I'd think this would be an attractive buy for stations in the blackout areas in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and small parts of Wisconsin, which you can see on this map, to run on their digital subchannels. Some stations in those markets have been carrying games that have run on WCIU-Ch. 26 in Chicago the last couple of years: 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.
That list isn't a comprehensive list of markets that would cover the entire blackout areas. For that, you'd have to include Milwaukee, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Evansville, Sioux City, Omaha and Paducah. But given the fact that ABC7 can sell the package to "other regional TV stations," perhaps all these markets would be included and that would make up for the loss of games on WGN America.
Or... maybe that won't be a loss after all. The Score reported Friday that talks continue with WGN-TV locally (covered here on Thursday) but that WGN America might not be out of the picture after all.
I don't have any further details on that sports talk radio report, but obviously that would be beneficial to Cubs fans all over the country.
As they say in the TV biz, "Stay tuned."