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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Chicago’s Sports Media About to Experience a Major Shake-Up

  • Three Chicago pro teams’ local media rights could shift to Stadium as soon as this fall.
  • White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf seeks greater control over his own local media future.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

A seismic and long-planned shift in the Chicago sports media market is now reportedly near.

White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf (above) is closing in on a formal announcement of those teams’ local media rights, as well as for the NHL’s Blackhawks, moving to the multi-platform network Stadium as soon as this fall, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. The shift from current rightsholder NBC Sports Chicago would elevate Stadium from its current form into a full-fledged regional sports network, where it would seek distribution from various cable carriers.

The Chicago-based Stadium, which operates out of the Bulls’ United Center, currently offers a series of live games, particularly within college sports, as well as highlights and studio programming. Key on-air personalities include basketball insiders Shams Charania and Jeff Goodman. It is available through a series of digital, cable, and over-the-air platforms.

Why It’s Significant 

Getting the local rights to three major pro teams would elevate Stadium to a much greater level of prominence. Such a move has been actively contemplated for nearly a year, since Reinsdorf acquired a controlling stake in Stadium that was previously held by Sinclair Inc., as first reported by Front Office Sports. Reinsdorf has previously explored starting his own network, and doing so here would allow him greater control over his local-media future in a time of accelerating disruption across the industry. In particular, Reinsdorf will look to avoid the debt-laden situation that has dogged Diamond Sports Group, the embattled Bally Sports parent that remains in bankruptcy protection and is continuing reorganization efforts.

Stadium and the three Chicago teams have not yet commented substantively. But White Sox senior vice president of communications Scott Reifert told the Sun-Times, “The teams continue to have discussions and conversations about future broadcast plans and will have an announcement about those plans when appropriate.” FOS sources close to Stadium confirmed the ongoing discussions with the teams, but suggested a final deal was not necessarily imminent.

The White Sox, meanwhile, continue to pursue a new ballpark near downtown Chicago, perhaps in some type of public financing partnership with the Bears.

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