UPDATE: Scroll to bottom for information on local TV affiliates carrying syndicated broadcasts from WGN and ABC.
Yesterday, with the rumors of WGN 9 CW Chicago picking up around 45 of the currently unscheduled Cubs games for 2015, there was a mix of celebration and panic. Celebration on the part of those living in the Chicago area, many of whom were worried about where they were going to be able to view Cubs games for the upcoming season. Panic on the part of those that live in the Cubs’ market, but outside of the Chicagoland area.
You see, people who live in Iowa, parts of Indiana, Rockford, Champaign, Bloomington, Springfield, Decatur, and so on, get WGN America and not WGN 9 CW Chicago. As of January 1st, 2015, WGN America will no longer be airing sports as part of their programming. To broadcast a large number of Cubs games on WGN 9 would be to exclude hundreds of thousands of fans in the local market.
My stance in the past on WGN moving away from airing sports on their national station has been one of support. Does it suck for Cubs fans in Arizona, Florida, and California? Sure it does. But MLB.tv has a subscription for that. So long as you have money to spend, you aren’t completely out of luck.
However, the areas in question are in a Bermuda Triangle of sorts, it seems. Being part of the Chicago market, MLB.tv makes such places as Rockford or Springfield, even Indianapolis, part of the blackout zone. This means that any Cubs or Sox games would be blacked out, even if you paid for your subscription. But what if there is no local broadcast that you can view? Here is the policy from MLB.tv, word for word:
These blackout restrictions apply regardless of whether a Club is home or away and regardless of whether or not a game is televised in a Club’s home television territory.
Because of my immense fear of losing a large portion of viewable Cubs games for the upcoming baseball season, mixed with the panic I saw on social media and the unconfirmed information I was reading, I reached out to WGN America and WGN Sports to ask a few questions regarding this topic. I received a very kind email from a man only identifying himself as “George,” and here is the information he passed along:
WGN America is no longer carrying sports but you should continue having access to WGN Chicago’s sports telecasts…Most Major League Baseball games seen on WGN 9 CW Chicago will be seen outside the Chicago viewing area on a number of stations in parts of Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. Please note that as of this time, the Chicago Cubs have not yet announced their TV plans for 2015.
It’s worth noting that the Chicago Bulls are part of the WGN broadcast schedule, and the plan for the Bulls is clearer going into 2015. Here is what WGN has for the short-term future of the Bulls, which seems to be a template for what they plan for their baseball telecasts:
Most Chicago Bulls games seen on WGN 9 CW Chicago can be seen outside the Chicago viewing area on the following stations…
*WCIX 49.1 (MyNetworkTv) Springfield – Decatur – Champaign
*WMYS 69.1 (MyNetworkTv) South Bend – Elkhart
*KGCW 26.1 (The CW) or KLJB 18.1 (Fox) Davenport – Moline – Rock Island
* WAOE 59.1 (MyNetworkTv) Peoria – Bloomington
*WTVO 17.2 (MyNetworkTv) Rockford
More information has surfaced today about 25 games being broadcast on WLS-7, an ABC affiliate, which raises similar issues. While I haven’t heard back from anyone at that station, I would think it is safe to assume that they would be working diligently to ensure these same areas have the ability to carry Cubs games as well.
My sincere hope is that more clarity is just around the corner and that those of us in the Cubs’ viewing market won’t have to worry about whether or not we will be able to see Cubs games in the future.
UPDATE: The Cubs have released a full list of local TV affiliates throughout areas of the blackout region not serviced by WGN-9 or ABC-7