Chicago's Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox Bolt Comcast-Owned RSN, Launch New Multiplatform Channel With Standard Media Group

 Chicago Bulls.
Chicago Bulls.

As expected, the Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox are leaving their Comcast-owned regional sports network home, NBC Sports Chicago, and setting up new distribution, starting in October.

The new channel, Chicago Sports Network (CHSN) will be launched in partnership with Nashville, Tennessee-based broadcaster Standard Media Group and reach what is described as an "expanded Midwestern footprint," with distribution agreements in place with "traditional cable providers, streaming services and be available via free, over-the-air broadcast."

You can read the entire somewhat vague press release here.

That expanded reach is described as "most of Illinois, and parts of Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin."

Also read: Bulls, White Sox and Blackhawks Set to Ditch NBC Sports Chicago, Transform Stadium Into Their Own RSN

Jason Coyle, a longtime executive for Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf's media company, Stadium, has been named president of the new channel.

“As we set out to design the network, we began and ended every discussion with the simple question: What is best for our fans?” said Coyle, in a statement. “What is the best approach to distribution? How can we push the limits of both in-game and studio production? We plan to serve our fans on as many platforms and in as many markets as our rights allow.”

CHSN will launch in October, in conjunction with the Bulls’ and Blackhawks’ respective NBA and NHL preseasons. The cellar-dwelling White Sox will play out the remainder of the 2024 Major League Baseball regular season, which ends in late September, on NBC Sports Chicago.

“We thank the White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks for the long and collaborative partnership on NBC Sports Chicago,” said the Comcast-owned RSN in its own statement. “We look forward to producing quality coverage of the teams through the remainder of our partnership, along with continuing our extensive coverage of every local pro team in town on NBC 5 Chicago and Telemundo Chicago.”

If Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit doesn't seem heartbroken in its goodbye statement, that’s probably because it’s been marginalizing an RSN business that has enduring diminishing profitability in recent years amid cord-cutting and escalating team licensing costs.

With the loss of Chicago, NBCU’s RSN holdings are down to NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports California and NBC Sports Philadelphia. It also owns 8% of SportsNet New York.

More broadly, Comcast is no longer pushing RSNs to customers who don't watch them in base tiers, forcing sports fans who want them to pay for premium video packages.

This strategy is reportedly at the heart of the current carriage dispute between Comcast and bankrupt Diamond Sports Group, operator of the Bally Sports channels.