Jim Corno dies

Jim CornoIf there was one name associated with sports television in Chicago, it would be Jim Corno.

Sadly, Corno passed away Tuesday at the age of 66 due to complications resulting from cancer.

Corno’s career spanned more than forty years in the television industry, most notably for successfully running four sports channels in Chicago, known today as “regional sports networks”, or RSNs.

Corno began his television career at then-independent KPLR-TV in St. Louis. Then owned by the Koplar family, Corno got his start in the station’s mailroom. In 1974, Corno joined WTOP-TV (now WUSA) where he was an operations manager for the then-Post-Newsweek (now Graham Holdings) stations. Corno became program manager of Post-Newsweek’s WDIV in Detroit four years later.

In 1984, Corno came to Chicago and assumed the general manager role at Sportsvision, which was in the process of converting itself from a over-the-air subscription TV service to a basic cable channel. Founded by White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn and WPWR owner Fred Eychaner two years earlier, Sportsvision was sold to New York-based Cablevision.

As more and more homes in the Chicago area became wired for cable, Sportsvision became SportsChannel. In order to provide more in-depth sports coverage, Corno created The SportsChannel Report, a nightly local sports show modeled after ESPN’s SportsCenter. Corno was also instrumental in reviving The Sportswriters On TV, a critically-acclaimed but little-watched show which had aired on WFLD-TV.

Corno oversaw the conversion of SportsChannel to Fox Sports Net Chicago in 1998, after Cablevision struck a licensing deal with Fox Sports to rebrand its SportsChannel RSNs. When the channel’s four pro sports teams decided to opt out of their contracts with FSN to join a new startup RSN venue with Comcast, the new entity hired Corno away from FSN to help launch the new Comcast SportsNet in 2004 (FSN Chicago closed its doors in 2006.) Under Corno’s watch, CSN Chicago had set personal ratings records with Blackhawks and Bulls games – not to mention also doing so during the Jordan era at SportsChannel/FSN Chicago.

During his long, local TV caeeer, Corno has won numerous Emmy awards, and was inducted into the NATAS Silver Circle in 2010. Corno was also inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall Of Fame and the National Italian-American Hall Of Fame. Corno was also instrumental in creating “The Chicago Sports Awards” dinner, held every year to benefit The March Of Dimes, which raised millions of dollars for the charity.

Jim Corno Sr. Is survived by his wife Carolyn, his two children, and five grandchildren.

Rest in peace, Jim.