Blackhawks, WGN-TV renew rights deal for five years

Lakers fans who live in Los Angeles who don’t have cable or satellite are going to be shut out when all non-nationally televised games shift to Time Warner Cable’s new planned regional sports networks.

For Chicago Blackhawks fans, that certainly won’t be the case anytime soon.

On Tuesday, WGN-TV and the Blackhawks announced a contract extension that would keep at least 20 games a season on the Tribune-owned CW affiliate for the next 5 years, through 2016. The new deal has no effect on the current cable deal the team has with Comcast SportsNet (which the Blackhawks own a part interest.) Sister outlets Versus and NBC continue to air nationally-televised games, at least until the end of the season when both rights deals expires (all three are now part of the Comcast family.) Due to those national rights, WGN America is excluded from the deal.

This story first broke Tuesday morning on Chicagoland Radio & Media.

Blackhawks games have been a success for WGN for the last three seasons thanks to a successful Stanley Cup run, which climaxed with the team winning the Cup last year (however, the team has been less successful this season, which will likely lead to ratings decreases.)

The WGN-TV deal stands in stark contrast to the one the Lakers made on Monday with Time Warner Cable. Beginning in 2012, Laker games not seen on ABC and TNT will be seen on Time Warner Cable’s new English-language and Spanish regional sports nets, effectively ending the team’s 35-year association with KHJ/KCAL-TV, a CBS-owned independent station with the new deal reported around to be $3 billion.

Before their return to WGN in 2008, Blackhawks games (not counting nationally televised games on ABC, Fox, or NBC), hasn’t had an over-the-air presence since 1980. WGN is current only a handful of NHL teams with a broadcast outlet – the others are the Dallas Stars (KDFI), Minnesota Wild (KSTC), Anaheim Ducks (KDOC), and Los Angeles Kings (KCOP).

With many sports teams making exclusive deals with regional sports networks on cable, at least one still recognizes the value of over-the-air television. Who’d thought it would be a team who was best known for a now-defunct policy on refusing to televise home games?

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