Three Chicago pro teams looking to jump from NBC Sports Chicago to Stadium

NBC Sports Chicago is set to lose regional broadcast rights for the Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox as the teams prepare to launch their own RSN venture with Stadium.

The trio of teams, which are the city’s NBA and NHL franchises and one of two MLB teams, have a deal with Comcast through October 2025. 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the teams appear ready to jump to Stadium Sports Network, which happens to be based in Chicago.

It’s possible that the teams could enter into a six-month extension with Comcast in order to carry them through the start of the 2025 MLB season. 

Assuming the teams jump ship, it’s likely that NBC Sports Chicago would close as other former members of the NBC Sports Regional Networks family did after losing their rights deals with local teams, essentially leaving them without any significant matchups to broadcast.

NBC Sports Chicago currently uses studios at the city’s Navy Pier entertainment district. 

NBC Sports Chicago is a joint venture of Comcast and the three teams’ owners. The city’s other MLB team, the Cubs, previously held a stake in the channel until it left in 2019 to start its own network with Diamond Sports Group, Marquee Sports Network.

Marquee, in turn, faced some initial hurdles getting carriage in the Chicago area, including on Comcast Xfinity. 

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Stadium is currently distributed by streaming in many markets, though it does have some cable TV carriage deals.

It’s not clear how open local pay TV operators would be to carrying the new Stadium-backed channel.

If the deal with Stadium moves forward and NBC shutters its RSN in the market, Chicago would continue to have two RSNs representing all of its top league-affiliated teams with the exception of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

The Bears have a regional deal with Chicago’s WFLD and a handful of CBS and Fox affiliates in smaller markets throughout the region. WBBM also carries select games.

Stadium was originally a joint venture between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Silver Chalice. Sinclair sold its stake in Stadium to Silver Chalice amid Diamond’s 2023 bankruptcy. 

Diamond is the joint venture between Sinclair and Allen Media Group that runs Bally Sports RSNs across the country. These were previously Fox Sports RSNs that Disney sold off after acquiring them from 21st Century Fox.

RSNs in major cities or regions owned by media conglomerates were once common. However, there has been a growing trend with teams launching their own channels, typically in partnership with a smaller-scale media outlet, other teams or a combination of both.

Regional sports rights, like national ones, remain appealing to broadcasters as live sports remains one of the bright spots in linear TV.