An excerpt from my latest column for the Chicago Tribune:
The upcoming radio rights deal with the White Sox and Bulls was nearly 90 years in the making for the WLS-AM 890.
According to longtime Chicago sportswriter Tim Cronin, a broadcast historian, Blackhawks home games aired on WLS during the 1927-28 season. Despite being one of the biggest stations in town, that marks the only time WLS was the exclusive flagship station for one of Chicago’s pro teams.
Until now. Last week, it was announced WLS will be the radio home for the White Sox in 2016 and the Bulls beginning with the 2016-17 season. Both deals run through 2021.
Suddenly, WLS will have the biggest inventory of games on the Chicago radio dial. The station also airs Notre Dame football and basketball.
Why the big jump into sports for WLS? It was a natural move for Cumulus Media, which bought the station in 2011. Cumulus owns Westwood One Sports, which airs the NFL radio package, and has other stations that broadcast pro games throughout the country.
“When you get the opportunity to get the White Sox and Bulls, it was too tempting to pass up,” said John Dickey, Culumus’ executive vice president for programming and content. “Those are two great brands. They absolutely will bring audience to the station.”
It hardly would be a surprise if WLS flipped to a sports-talk format considering it soon will be airing more than 300 games per year. Dickey, though, said there aren’t any plans to change from its current news/talk format.
“It’s a fun thing to talk about (going to all sports),” Dickey said. “But we still want to be all things Chicago for our listeners.”