What’s Baseball in Chicago Without WGN?

April 03, 2012

Baseball season begins this week, and I couldn’t be happier, especially since my Chicago real estate doesn’t subscribe to DirecTV.

The Tribune Co. failed to reach an agreement with the satellite company and now its 23 local broadcast stations in 19 markets across the country are off the DirecTV air, including WGN in Chicago.

That means no Cubs or White Sox games on WGN for Chicago’s DirectTV subscribers.

The station is set to air 65 Cubs games and 30 Sox ones this season, starting with the Cubs’ home opener Thursday at 1:20 p.m. The first Sox game on WGN is scheduled for Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

The Tribune Co. and DirecTV negotiated for months on an agreement but couldn’t come to one. By federal law, with no agreement in place, DirecTV cannot carry the signal of Tribune’s local stations.

The disagreement centers around money, of course, specifically retransmission fees the Trib wants from DirecTV.

“This situation is extremely unfortunate,” said Nils Larsen, Tribune Broadcasting president. “As baseball season gets underway, DirecTV’s inflexibility means sports fans in some of our local markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, will be deprived of one of baseball’s most cherished events — Opening Day.”

Representatives from DirecTV, don’t feel they’re being inflexible, and on Monday filed a complaint with the FCC against the Tribune Co., calling this “another case of runaway Wall Street greed.”

“Two days prior to expiration of the existing carriage arrangement, the parties reached an agreement in principle for continued carriage,” the complaint reads. “The following day, however, Tribune reneged on that agreement. Tribune later confirmed that its management had been overruled by the hedge fund and investment bank creditors.

“DIRECTV negotiated with Tribune for months, only learning on the very eve of expiration that it had never been dealing with anyone who had the authority required under the [FCC] rules. Indeed, DIRECTV still does not know with whom it should be speaking — Tribune’s CEO or its associated hedge funds and investment banks.”

Representatives from the Trib claim there was never a deal in place.

No matter who is right, it’s the viewers who will suffer. The Trib has established a website where DirecTV subscribers can voice their concerns about losing the stations. The site offers other options for watching WGN through DirecTV.

Another site, dtv.gov, also shows DirecTV subscribers ways to watch WGN programming.

Will DirecTV and the Tribune Company come to an agreement before the first pitch at Wrigley Field on Thursday? Stay tuned — literally — to find out.

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