Two of Chicago’s sports franchises will have new radio homes in 2016.
As first reported by Robert Feder on Thursday, The Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls both struck deals with Cumulus Media’s WLS-AM starting with the 2016 season. Financial terms were not released, but the deals runs through 2021.
Currently, the White Sox are on WSCR-AM (The Score); Bulls games are on WMVP (ESPN 1000). The Bulls’ 2015-16 season will air on WMVP, its last. The move leaves WMVP with no teams from the four major sports leagues.
With the White Sox exiting WSCR, look for Cubs games to move to the 670 frequency.. Cubs games currently air on WBBM-AM, where they moved to after 90 years at WGN-AM.
Both the White Sox and the Bulls are owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, who was seeking to align the rights deals to expire at the same time.
Chatterings of a White Sox/WLS deal surfaced weeks ago.
The move to WLS allows, White Sox and Bulls to provide promotional opportunities injunction with three other Chicago Cumulus stations: Classic Hits WLS-FM, and male-skewing Alternative Rock WKQX-FM and Classic Rock WLUP-FM, the latter would air Bulls games if there are any programming conflicts. In addition, both teams will have pre-game and post-game programming, selected preseason games, and weekly, year-round shows.
The deal is part of a move to shift WLS-AM away from conservative talk and more into a mainstream format, although for now, it’ll continue to carry Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage. Many news/talk stations have been successful carrying a mix of news/talk and sports, notably WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee and WCCO-AM in Minneapolis.
As a bonus for WLS, the move gives the station more lucrative programming to air on the weekends, instead of time-brokered programming.
While WMVP is losing Bulls telecasts after next season, the team could gain more ESPN television exposure – as well as other NBA teams as the sports network announced a new Saturday night NBA package to air on ABC.
ESPN, WMVP, and ABC are all owned by The Walt Disney Co.
The package, part of a new broadcast/cable deal that kicks in this upcoming season, gives ABC eight regular-season primetime games to air starting in January, effectively removing the low-rated early afternoon Sunday contest. These are marquee-matchups, which means the Bulls could land one or two games in primetime next season on ABC.
This isn’t the first time NBA regular-season games have aired in prime-time: NBC aired a few games on Saturday nights in 2000 or so, but wasn’t successful in the ratings. NBC lost the NBA package to ABC after the 2001-02 season. NBA regular-season games did not air in primetime on CBS when they had the rights from 1973 to 1990.