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updated: 6/5/2014 8:00 PM

Marketing reach key element of Cubs radio switch

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  • From left, Cubs executive Crane Kenney, CBS officials Dan Mason and Rod Zimmerman, joined Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts on Thursday to talk about WBBM 780-AM becoming the new radio home for Cubs baseball.

       From left, Cubs executive Crane Kenney, CBS officials Dan Mason and Rod Zimmerman, joined Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts on Thursday to talk about WBBM 780-AM becoming the new radio home for Cubs baseball.
    Bruce Miles | Staff Photographer

 
 

Back in the day, even before people said "back in the day," Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau would wrap up a Cubs radio broadcast on WGN, perhaps noting that the game lasted a "snappy" 1 hour and 48 minutes.

Time marches on. Cubs games generally are in about the fourth inning at the 1-hour, 48-minute mark, and beginning next year, WBBM will be the new radio home of the Cubs.

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Combining the best of business-school lingo with awkward sports terminology, the Cubs talked Thursday of a "game-changing partnership" in their new seven-year deal with CBS radio that will put their games on WBBM 780-AM in Chicago.

The best news for Cubs fans is that play-by-play man Pat Hughes and color analyst Ron Coomer will make the jump down the dial to 'BBM, providing fans with best baseball repartee around.

So for Cubs fans interested in only listening to Cubs games, this is really no big deal, except for the emotional attachment some might have to WGN.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney thanked WGN, which broadcast games since 1924 and exclusively since 1958. In addition to the money offered by CBS, Kenney touted a "multiyear sports and entertainment partnership that includes several promotional initiatives across all seven of CBS radio's local Chicago stations and the company's digital and social platforms."

"This was a tough decision for us," Kenney said. "We didn't take it lightly. After WGN decided to opt out of our contract, we owed it to the organization and our fans to explore all the options."

Kenney and CBS executives Dan Mason and Rod Zimmerman said that Cubs regular-season, postseason and some spring-training games would air on WBBM-AM and that during games, news would be heard on the CBS FM station (105.9), which simulcasts the news today.

The marketing partnership will be used to "promote the sale of Cubs tickets, our special events, such as concerts, other sporting events, the Cubs convention and our Bricks and Ivy ball. Partnering with CBS, we will now reach every demographic in the Chicago market," Kenney said.

Those radio stations include all-sports talker WSCR 670-AM, which carries White Sox games, rocker WXRT and country station WUSN.

Another part of the deal involves expanding the music business, which includes concerts at Wrigley Field.

Rod Zimmerman, senior vice president and market manager of CBS Radio Chicago, said his group jumped at the chance to get the Cubs, even though WGN said it was losing money by airing games of a losing team. WGN had a right to match the offer, Kenney said, but it declined.

"Exclusive, marquee, oceanfront property and radio content like this is very hard to find and very hard to come by," Zimmerman said.

There will be some conflicts with Bears games, which WBBM carries in the fall. In that case, the Cubs would shift to 105.9 FM, with the Bears remaining on the AM station.

In one lighthearted moment, Kenney noted how much the CBS execs know about baseball.

"By far CBS understood our vision and actually added to it," Kenney said. "The conversations we had and one in Dan's (Mason's) office where he was asking why Tony Campana wasn't on the team any longer, they became conversations about baseball, and that made all of us very comfortable. These folks understand the game. They have a passion for it. Our fans will clearly experience that."

Campana is a speedy, light-hitting outfielder the baseball department didn't regard so highly, and now he's with Arizona.

So using a little more business lingo that's in vogue today, if everybody "stays in their lane," things should be OK.

• Follow Bruce Miles on Twitter@BruceMiles2112.

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