For the past 22 seasons, NFL Chicago Bears radio programming has aired on Audacy-owned WBBM Newsradio 780 AM / 105.9 FM. Now it’s Flagship station and live gaming broadcasts set to move to ESPN 1000owned and operated by Good Karma Brands, beginning early next season under a multi-year agreement.
“We have been incredibly impressed with the enthusiasm shown by the management team at Good Karma Brands,” Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement included in the press release. the team. “Their plan to bring Bears football to radio is first class and we know ESPN 1000 will be a great home for our games and a focus for Bears talk all year long. We look forward to working with the station from of 2023.”
There had been much speculation regarding the team’s broadcast rights with reports in June indicating that three stations were involved in the bidding, according to daily herald media columnist Robert Feder.
Ultimately, ESPN 1000 Chicago earned the accolade of adding an NFL team to its roster of live game programming and broadcasts, which also includes all Major League Baseball Chicago White Sox games. In the space of nearly three years, the brand secured its second professional media rights deal, and the first under new market director Keith Williams.
“I think it all started with a conversation in March where we were just asking questions about their needs, their goals and their ideas,” Williams told Barrett Sports Media. “Over the next few months, [it was] just conversations, developing relationships and understanding what would make the most sense for us and them to form a partnership.
Although ESPN 1000 was acquired by Good Karma Brands in a larger transaction earlier this year, the station has been operated by the company since October 2019. As a competitor to 670 The Score, ESPN 1000 continually seeks to stand out from others in the market, or as Williams puts it: “Just like our business always does – when others zigzag, we zigzag.”
While they are unable to disclose the specific changes that will take place as part of the deal as it takes effect early next season, ESPN 1000 Chicago management knows the Bears are in heart of sports coverage in “The Windy City”.
“The Bears are the biggest team in town,” said ESPN 1000 content director Danny Zederman. “Even though we’re not the Bears’ home right now, we’re still talking about the Bears from the minute we [go] on the air…until the minute we stop broadcasting; however, we’re not going to treat the Bears as just 17 games. It is a 365 day a year product.
As part of the new media rights agreement, ESPN 1000 Chicago plans to have more access to players, coaches and other team personnel. Additionally, it will air pre-game and post-game programming, as well as an additional Bears show once a week, according to Zederman, to maintain its coverage of the team which he says is “the best in the industry.”
It remains to be seen how much the addition of the team will affect its ratings – but it will now have the radio rights to two professional teams, as will Audacy-owned 670 The Score with the Chicago Bulls of National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball’s Chicago. Small.
“We’re not worried about that,” Williams said of the effect the deal could have on the ratings. “We’re focused on delivering the best product we have to our fans. If we can delight our fans and get results for our advertising partners, that’s what Good Karma Brands is all about.
As the implementation of digital platforms and the creation of listener-friendly content proliferates in the industry, ESPN 1000 Chicago will seek to remain at the forefront of innovation. Additionally, he will continue to produce and distribute content to consumers to ensure the brand is able to satisfy the general fandom and yearning that exists for entertaining and compelling coverage.
“As the radio industry pivots, we will pivot and grow with it,” Zederman said. “Anyway we can reach the fans and provide them with something they want to consume, we’re going to be there and do it.”
For companies or brands looking to advertise, game broadcasts give them the opportunity to reach specific demographics within a captive audience fixed on the grill. Since White Sox and Bears coverage will be provided year-round on ESPN 1000 Chicago beginning with the 2023 NFL season, advertising partners will have the opportunity to deliver their messages to listeners and the potential to reach new audiences. new market sectors.
“In today’s quirky world of podcasts and recorded television programming, where the ears and eyeballs are in live sports,” Williams said. “Our belief is that the fans will be there; they’ll be listening and what better way to get your brand and product out there from a marketing perspective for some of our ad partners than doing it in and around the game.”
Since its loss to the Chicago Bulls in 2016, ESPN 1000 had no professional broadcasting rights, although it aired games for Notre Dame football and the University of Illinois Flames men’s basketball.
Nonetheless, it could be argued that the brand was losing potential streams of revenue and audience, thereby weakening its position in the market. Yet it has remained in constant competition with competing brands both inside and outside of radio, and now continues to cement its position as the broadcast center for professional baseball and football teams.
“ESPN are four of the most powerful letters in the sport,” Zederman said, “and in the city of Chicago there is no more powerful team than the Chicago Bears. I think marriage speaks for itself. -same.
“The brand is already strong,” added Williams. “We are ESPN 1000. Adding the Bears on top of having the White Sox continues to elevate everything. There’s credibility with ESPN, there’s credibility with the Sox, there’s credibility with the Bears. I think we were already strong. Now we are even stronger.
There is a distinct possibility that next season’s opening week the Chicago White Sox, led by new manager Pedro Grifol and young stars Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez, could find themselves in contention for a playoff spot. in hopes that it culminates in a deep post-season run.
With that possibility comes the chance of the White Sox playing in a postseason game while the Bears are on the court, creating a dilemma for ESPN 1000 Chicago; however, a plan is already in place should this situation arise.
“If the White Sox are in the playoffs, they will be on ESPN 1000“Williams said,” and the Chicago Bears will be on a contention station that we will determine going forward.
As the Chicago Bears’ new flagship station starting next season, ESPN 1000 Chicago and the team will work to collaborate and maintain a mutually beneficial professional relationship in an effort to generate success.
Although this term implies a connotative definition to be interpreted by those in different industries, it is quite two-sided in sports media from the perspective of content and revenue, two properties that ostensibly breed dependency on each other.
“If our ad partners are increasing their business, that means we have a lot of fans listening to their message,” Williams said. “If the fanbase is there and supporting our advertising partners, then it’s a success for us. I guess the flip side is just…are the Bears happy with the airplay and coverage that we provide because they are partners with us in this business.
The city of Chicago hasn’t had sports radio on the FM dial for the past few years – despite the HD2 partnership between Good Karma Brands and Hubbard Radio – but it’s still able to attract listeners on AM and various platforms. digital.
As radio continues to utilize technological innovations and adapt to the crowded sports media landscape, ESPN 1000 Chicago management believes consumers know where to go to receive the best content.
“It doesn’t matter where you are on the dial,” Williams said. “I think if you put out enough good content, people will find a way to join you.”
With the addition of the Bears to its airwaves, along with the existing partnership with the White Sox and an extensive lineup of talk shows, ESPN 1000 Chicago appears to be a leader in the evolution of sports media. In doing so, it intends to use new technologies and methods to reach both its dedicated listeners and those who occasionally tune into the station or consume its content on digital platforms.
“The more we can continue to push our team and just sports radio in general to educate, to inform, but above all [to] entertain, will grow fanbases and bring people to the format,” Williams said. “Obviously whether it’s live; whether it’s timeshifted with podcasts or videocasts or whatever happens here in the future, we have to have fun; we have to do it in a fun way, present it with personality and grow from there.
Since sports fans can easily find the latest scores, stats and news of their favorite teams or players via the internet, the compelling appeal of sports radio lies in its personalities. Even so, people can listen to radio shows on demand, reducing the impact of live programming on the industry.
Yet with sporting events, fans want to be informed of the latest action and express their fandom through social media or high-profile forms of communication; therefore, they choose to listen live and stay on the station during the commercial. Part of the reason why football fans also like to listen to the games on the radio is that it is the medium on which local broadcasters are heard since the commentators in the television booths broadcast the games nationally, and are therefore subject to change from week to week.
“The one thing you don’t consume on demand is live games,” Zederman said. “You want to see the action when it happens; you want to hear the action when it happens. If you’re a Twitter person, you want to react with fans on Twitter as the action unfolds. Having live games, whether it’s the White Sox or the Bears, is a game-changer for us because people come to watch live sports; That’s the whole story.”
“We are aggressive in growing our fan base; we are aggressive in broadcasting live sports,” added Williams. “Combining this with ESPN will elevate everyone’s brand.”
ESPN 1000 Chicago will officially become the Chicago Bears’ flagship radio station at the start of the NFL league’s new year in March 2023. The rest of the Bears’ games this season will air on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM/105.9 FM, with TUDN Deportes Radio 1200 AM and Latin Mix 93.5 FM.