The Chicago White Sox just signed a new multiyear agreement with CBS Radio station WSCR-AM to broadcast the home team’s games. Normally this isn’t the sort of news we cover here at Radio Survivor, but the unique twist to this contract is that it comes with a all-White-Sox HD channel on WSCR’s sister station, WJMK-FM. Currently WJMK’s HD-2 channel is a simulcast of WSCR’s AM programming. Presumably the new White Sox channel will take over this HD-2 channel, or perhaps WJMK will add an HD-3 channel in order to maintain the WSCR simulcast.
To the best of my knowledge this is the first deal of its kind, giving a single sports team its own dedicated HD channel. Since there’s only so many games to air, the programming will likely have quite a bit of call-in talk programming. According to White Sox vice-president Brooks Boyer,
We want it to be an open forum where fans can talk about the White Sox. It’s not a 24-7 commercial…. It’s a forum for White Sox fans. One of the great things about White Sox fans is they don’t hold anything back.
Of course, call-in talk programming is also very inexpensive to produce.
The station will also air programming covering the Chicago Bull basketball team, which is also owned by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. However Bulls games are currently aired on the competing ABC-owned ESPN Radio station WMVP-AM and are contracted to stay there through the 2011-12 season.
It’s an interesting idea, and I wonder what the financials looks like. In particular I’m curious if dedicating the HD channel allowed WSCR to pay less cash to the team. That’s because, despite whatever Sox VP Brooks Boyer says, that all-Sox channel will definitely be a lot more like a 24-7 commercial for the team. At the same time, it is an opportunity for CBS Radio to put some original, local programming on its HD channel, rather than a simulcast or MP3 playlist. I would expect that the deal allows CBS to leverage the value of the channel more than it does now.
Still, I doubt this will prompt too many Sox fans to run out and get HD receivers, unless CBS Radio decides not to make the channel available for streaming online. Due to the vagaries of broadcast sports contracts a lot of live game broadcasts are not available online, though this shouldn’t apply to most of the channel’s programming, which won’t be live games. Furthermore, the programming will have to offer something that stands apart from Chicago’s two sports-talk stations to justify fans buying new radios. As I’ve noted before, offering unique and compelling programming on HD-2 and HD-3 channels is an area where the radio industry has mostly been a failure.
WSCR and the White Sox haven’t yet said when the new HD channel will start. It’s a good guess that it will be on the air before spring training begins next year.
Just one dollar a month makes you a patron of Radio Survivor. Help us through our Patreon Campaign!