After losing the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks, WGN-TV added a pro sports team to their network. A multi-year partnership with the Chicago Fire Football Club was announced, making WGN their home for all locally broadcast matches.
“In this transformational year for our Club, we want to provide our fans with as many ways as possible to experience the Fire, both live at Soldier Field and on the broadcast,” said Fire Owner and Chairman Joe Mansueto. “We know WGN-TV’s powerful place on the City’s sports scene and we’re excited to be their new flagship sports property.”
Of the Fire’s 34 matches this season, all 24 local broadcasts will be carried on WGN, with their other 10 games airing nationally on ABC, ESPN, FS1, Univision and UniMás.
“WGN-TV has a rich history of broadcasting live sports and we look forward to continuing and building on that tradition with Chicago Fire FC,” commented WGN-TV Vice President, General Manager Paul Rennie. “The Fire have found a new home at Soldier Field and now a new broadcast home at WGN-TV. We’re thrilled to bring the exciting action of Chicago Fire FC to our viewers and all of Chicago.”
The length of partnership wasn’t announced, but it likely doesn’t extend beyond 2022. According to a previous report by Paul Tenorio and Pablo Maurer of The Athletic, the MLS instructed teams not to sign local TV rights deals beyond the 2022 season. The edict signals a potential change in how teams’ media rights are handled in the future.
The first WGN broadcast for the Chicago Fire kicks off March 7th, but who will be calling the game remains a question. Last October, longtime Fire play-by-play Fire play-by-play voice Dan Kelly announced he wouldn’t be returning to the booth and analyst Frank Klopas joined the club’s coaching staff as an assistant.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Kay Adams: Pat McAfee Has Built ‘The Dream’
“it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
Many in sports media have respect for former NFL punter Pat McAfee for what he has accomplished in his media endeavors, and you can add FanDuel TV host Kay Adams to that list.
“I’m just blown away by the success and by the leverage he has,” Adams said on the My Other Passion podcast. “It is uncanny, it is aspirational, and it is self-made, so it is a beautiful thing. I — of course — watch what he does. I don’t want to be just like him but I do think he is so disruptive.
“He has such a chip on his shoulder. It drives him but I almost wish I could see it relieved a little bit. He’s thriving, he’s happy, and I think the thing that sticks out to me about him is that he’s truly grateful. Truly is grateful for everything he has, his opportunities. He’s worked his ass off for it.”
Adams pointed to McAfee’s recent spat with the NFL over use of the league’s logos as an indicator of not only his success but his influence in the sports landscape.
“He is true to himself but he mostly leads with gratitude, which I think is the epitome of success. But he’s out there show you what can be done. He’s the first, but will he be the last to have that sort of platform? That sort of swing? What he does with the NFL the other week, I’m paying attention to that.
“Because I wanna see: is the NFL gonna bend the knee to Pat McAfee? Does the NFL care what he says? But it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
The NFL did eventually “bend the knee” and reversed course on limiting McAfee’s use of league trademarks.
John Skipper: Bob Iger’s Return Won’t Effect ESPN
“If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
There have been many questions about what Bob Iger’s return to Disney will mean for ESPN, but former ESPN President John Skipper believes it won’t change much.
Skipper pointed to Iger’s relationships with powerbrokers in the sports world as a positive, and also believes that the “streaming wars” will be won by those who hold the rights to live sports.
“As a moat, to get the pay-TV fees and to get people to pay more money to subscribe,” Skipper pointed to Sportico as the reason for ESPN to still have an agreement with the NBA for linear TV. He later added “If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
Skipper also said the network used to invest in constant studio programming but said that’s no longer a necessity.
“We did that type of programming because the economics were different at the time,” Skipper said.
Warner Bros. Discovery Sports President Departs
“His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”
Lenny Daniels is leaving Warner Bros. Discovery after 27 years with the company.
Daniels is the President of the company’s sports division in the United States, overseeing the contracts and strategic vision for the organization.
In a memo sent to staff obtained by Sports Business Journal, CEO Luis Silberwasser said “While this change will take place right away, Lenny has agreed to work with me to ensure a smooth transition.” He also added “I have enjoyed working with Lenny during these past few months and I respect his decision. Lenny has never been one to place a spotlight on himself; he’s always been quick to shine it on those around him. His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”
The departure by Daniels coincides with a round of layoffs by the company and also the beginning of long-term agreements with the NHL and MLB. The network is also about to embark on negotiations with the NBA for its next media rights deal, with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and President David Zaslav recently saying “we don’t have to have the NBA“.