Double play: WLS signs radio deals for White Sox, Bulls

Chicago White Sox/Chicago Bulls

Chicago White Sox/Chicago Bulls

You read it here first and now it’s official: Chicago White Sox baseball will air on WLS AM 890 under a six-year deal starting in April 2016.

But that’s not all: Chicago Bulls basketball also will air on the Cumulus Media news/talk station under a five-year deal starting in November 2016.

Both agreements were announced Thursday in a joint statement by the teams and WLS management. The deals, which run through 2021 with both teams, include regular and postseason games, select spring training and exhibition contests, pregame and postgame programming, and weekly year-round shows. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen

“Cumulus Media and WLS AM 890 are honored to become the radio home of the Bulls and White Sox, two of Chicago’s very best sports brands,” said Peter Bowen, vice president and Chicago market manager of Cumulus Media. “Adding both teams to our programming schedule allows us to continue to capitalize on the strong growth and success Cumulus is enjoying in the Chicago market. We cannot wait to bring year-round sports to some of the world’s greatest fans.”

The White Sox have been airing on CBS Radio sports/talk WSCR AM 670 since 2006. With the South Siders leaving, The Score is expected to pick up Chicago Cubs baseball broadcasts next year from its all-news sister station, WBBM AM 780.

Except for the 2006-07 season, ESPN sports/talk WMVP AM 1000 has been the flagship station of the Bulls since 1996. In 2011 the Bulls agreed to a five-year extension to keep the Chicago Bulls Radio Network on ESPN 1000 through the 2016-17 season. The new agreement nullifies the final year of that deal.

The Bulls will continue on ESPN 1000 for one more season before moving to WLS. After that, whenever Bulls games conflict with White Sox broadcasts, the Bulls are expected to air on WLUP FM 97.9, the classic rock station leased and programmed by Cumulus Media.

Jerry Reinsdorf

Jerry Reinsdorf

In landing radio rights to the two teams owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, WLS instantly becomes a year-round play-by-play powerhouse, providing significant new revenue opportunities and potential ratings. Bowen said the move does not signal a change in the station’s news/talk format, which will continue to target men between 25 and 54 and men between 35 and 64.

With a lineup of local and syndicated personalities, including Big John Howell, Jonathon Brandmeier, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Dahl, Michael Savage and Mark Levin, WLS tied for 29th place in the latest Nielsen Audio survey with a 1.1 percent share and a cumulative weekly audience of 362,600. Total revenue last year was $9.48 million.

When news of the White Sox deal first broke here June 23, it drew denials from both sides. Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing, told the Daily Herald: “There is no deal with WLS. . . . I’m not sure where today’s blog post came from.” Lewis Dickey, president and CEO of Cumulus Media, told Crain’s Chicago Business: “I’ve had head fakes before. You never know until it’s signed.” One amateur blogger called it an “erroneous report” that was “completely false” and “devoid of any true current facts.”

WLS AM 890

WLS AM 890

In a statement Thursday, Boyer said: “We are excited to partner with Cumulus Media and WLS AM 890 to broadcast White Sox baseball to our fans across Chicago and throughout the Midwest. We look forward in joining with the Bulls and Notre Dame football and basketball to bring the passion and interest in Chicago-area sports to WLS AM 890 and its listeners.”

Michael Reinsdorf, president and chief operating officer of the Bulls, said in a statement: “Our new partnership with Cumulus Media and WLS AM 890 will provide the Bulls and White Sox with an extensive radio platform to reach our fans. This relationship combines our shared interest in innovation and our shared commitment to bringing our fans the highest quality game broadcasts and other team radio programming.”

The announcement made no mention of broadcast teams for the White Sox or Bulls.