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Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

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Comcast SportsNet Chicago will broadcast 80 regular season games played by the Chicago Cubs during the 2011 season. The first will be on Apr. 2, against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

New enhancements to Comcast SportsNet game telecasts this year include a new HD technology that is capable of showing slow-motion replays of over 2,000 frames per second.

Fans will also be able to watch "Pitch Trax," a technology that animates the precise pitch location throughout each game in a variety of angles. Pitch Trax will be available for every game that CSNC broadcasts.

Other enhancements being made this season to Cubs broadcasts include an all-new graphics package and scoring data that features real time stats in a variety of key categories.

Keith_Moreland_Convention.JPGKeith Moreland has been named the new color analyst for the Chicago Cubs radio broadcasts on Tribune Co.-owned WGN-AM (720). He succeeds longtime analyst Ron Santo, who passed away late last year.

Moreland, 56, spent six of his 12 major league seasons with the Cubs from 1982 to 1987, helping the Cubs win the 1984 National League East title. He played third base, first base, outfield and catcher while he was with the team.

Moreland brings 16 years of experience as the radio color analyst of the University of Texas baseball program to his new job. He has also been a fill-in analyst for Cubs radio and television broadcasts.

"I'm very excited to work with a great broadcaster in Pat Hughes, a great team in the Cubs that I was lucky enough to play for and a great radio station that has the power to reach millions of Cubs fans," said Moreland. "I'm not a replacement for Ron Santo -- he's impossible to replace," added Moreland.

"Keith will display the same passion, instincts and knowledge for the game during our WGN radio broadcasts as he did on the field," said Crane Kenney, president of the Cubs.

MM_Cubbies_Bottle[3].jpgMuscle Milk, a ready-to-drink, protein-enhanced beverage, is distributing a limited edition bottle with the Chicago Cubs logo and baseball stitching incorporated into the bottle design.

The limited edition bottle will be sold at Chicago-area Walgreens through the end of July, and the bottle will be available at Jewel-Osco stores during July and August. The Cubs Muscle Milk bottle follows on the heels of another limited edition bottle that debuted in Cleveland in January of this year. That bottle featured an image of Cleveland Cavaliers player Shaquille O'Neal.

The Muscle Milk tie-in is the latest marketing move at the Cubs under Wally Hayward, the recently-appointed chief sales and marketing officer for the team. Cubs fans can now visit for a chance to win the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Cubs home game.

In anticipation of the rebranding in June of the National City banks in the Chicago market with the PNC bank name, PNC Financial Services Group has signed on as the lead sponsor of the PNC Club of Chicago, a deluxe 71-seat sanctuary being built out behind the third-base line at Wrigley Field. The new club will offer high-end catering, a full-service bar, concierge service, large-screen TV's and indoor and outdoor seating.

With this new sponsorship deal, PNC apparently intends to build on the longstanding relationship already established between the Chicago Cubs and National City. "Our expanded partnership with the Cubs reflects our plans to grow throughout Chicagoland, build our brand and support our community," said Joseph Gregoire, president of Illinois Banking for National City, now part of PNC. "We're excited to offer this larger, more open suite to businesses and entrepreneurs looking to entertain clients or prospects at a game," added Wally Hayward, chief sales and marketing officer for the Cubs.

PX212_3FF2_7.JPGComcast SportsNet would have us believe the Chicago White Sox season opener Tuesday on the sports cable channel drew huge television ratings. But that wasn't really the case. At least not in comparison to the Chicago Cubs season opener that aired Monday on CSN. The early afternoon game time may have been a factor in the lower White Sox ratings.

The White Sox opener against the Kansas City Royals pulled a 3.23 rating for the live afternoon telecast, and scored a 4.24 peak rating during the 3:15 p.m. quarter hour. The previous high rating for a White Sox season opening game came on Apr. 4, 2005 game against the Cleveland Indians, which had a 2.38 rating on CSN.

Judd Sirott, nephew of veteran local broadcaster Bob Sirott, has been named host of Cubs Central Pregame, heard before every Chicago Cubs broadcast on WGN-AM (720). Sirott will assist Pat Hughes and Ron Santo in the Cubs radio booth, handling one inning of play-by-play each game and updating the Major League Baseball scoreboard. He also will contribute to Cubs Postgame, including Cubs Plus, the expanded postgame show heard after most games.

Sirott has been the host of Chicago Blackhawks Pregame, Postgame and intermission reports on WGN, a role in which he will continue in addition to his new Cubs duties. Prior to joining WGN, Judd Sirott called National Hockey League games nationally for HDNet for the two years. Previously, Sirott, 39, was the voice of the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves from the team's inception in 1994 to 2006.

They're working on it. A bankruptcy exit plan, that is. That was the big news that came out of a Tribune Co. bankruptcy court hearing in Wilmington, Del. on Friday. But Tribune Co. Chief Financial Officer Chandler Bigelow III seemed to whine a bit when he told an attorney for the bankruptcy trustee and some creditors present that the company is "facing very difficult cyclical and sector pressures in our key business." Whether he knows it or not, Bigelow wasn't telling anyone anything about the media business that hasn't been readily apparent for some time.

Questions were also directed to Bigelow about the status of the sale of the Chicago Cubs. And again, Bigelow didn't have much to report, except to say "we're making progress." Progress? We have lost track of how many deadlines for the Cubs sale have come and gone already, so who knows if the Tribune Co. is really making progress on that front.

One other concern surfaced during Friday's hearing -- a second so-called solvency opinion that reportedly was never released in connection with Sam Zell's acquisition of the Tribune Co. in late 2007. Solvency opinions are documents that review the value of a company's saleable assets and its liabilities, as well as cash flow capacity and ability to meet obligations as they come due. Trib attorneys and Bigelow reportedly were at a loss to explain why the second solvency opinion was never released. They indicated they could release it at a later date.



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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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