The U comes to bat for WGN on Cubs' Opening Day
Tue Apr 3 2012
Update at 6:30pm: WGN denies deal to simulcast Cubs' opener.
DirecTV customers won’t have to miss the Cubs’ Opening Day at Wrigley Field after all.
Since midnight Saturday, they’ve been caught in the middle — and in the dark — in a fight between the satellite distribution company and Tribune Co. over negotiations to carry WGN-Channel 9 and WGN America programming. The ongoing blackout threatened to affect Thursday’s home opener between the Cubs and the Washington Nationals.
But now there's a ray of sunshine for viewers: If the dispute isn’t resolved before Thursday, the game will be simulcast on two Chicago television stations: Tribune flagship WGN and Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26, the independent station known as The U. DirecTV customers have had uninterrupted access to The U.
“We’re not taking sides in their dispute, but we want to be of service to the Chicago community,” said Neal Sabin, president of content and networks for Chicago-based Weigel. “A lot of people have DirecTV and they should see the Cubs’ home opener.”
Sabin said his company was approached about the simulcast by Marty Wilke, vice president and general manager of WGN. Although the deal involves no additional compensation, Weigel already has an agreement to air eight regular season Cubs games on The U.
On Monday, DirecTV filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission accusing Tribune Co. of reneging on a deal to keep its programming up on the satellite service.
The complaint alleged that creditors overseeing Tribune Co. in bankruptcy are calling the shots. "In another case of runaway Wall Street greed, some of America's wealthiest hedge funds and investment banks, including Oaktree Partners, Angelo Gordon, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank, forced Tribune's senior management to renege on an agreement that would have kept DirecTV customers connected to their local programming," DirecTV said in a statement. "Their actions represent a brazen attempt to extract yet another bailout on the backs of innocent viewers."
A Tribune Co. spokesman called DirecTV’s FCC complaint and claims of bad faith “nothing more than negotiating tactics.”