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After just two years at WLS AM 890, the White Sox may have to find another radio home.
Cumulus Media, which owns WLS, filed motions to reject its contracts with the White Sox and Bulls among “a handful of extremely unprofitable contracts” in bankruptcy proceedings.
The press release published Wednesday goes on to say “the economic terms of these legacy contracts guarantee that we lose money and, as such, continuing them in their current form is not in Cumulus’s best interests.” The filing elaborates on that, saying Cumulus “accordingly concluded that the contracts provide no current value, or prospect of future value, and constitute an undue burden on the debtors’ estates.”
A court in New York is scheduled to rule on the motions on Feb. 1, when one of a few things can happen.
No. 1: The White Sox and Bulls renegotiate with Cumulus, although Cumulus’ CEO Mary Berner said the company hadn’t been able to find success attempting to revise terms. She didn’t specify which teams or properties were involved in such discussions, only “in many of these situations.”
No. 2: Jerry Reinsdorf takes Cumulus to court to honor the remaining four years of the contract.
No. 3: The contract is voided, and the White Sox have to find a new home.
I wonder if the last one would be best for everybody. Looking back at our read of the previous hunt for a new flagship station in 2015, WLS looked like the riskiest possibility, as it had been undergoing lineup upheaval in the search for ratings. This wasn’t the most encouraging quote at the time:
“There’s a good match,” [WLS operations and program director Peter] Bolger said. “WLS has had a tough couple years, and the Sox have had a rough couple years. I think we can help each other.”
There’s a thin line between symbiosis and codependency. Two more rough seasons (and a Cubs championship) later, the Sox haven’t been appointment listening. Then again, it might have been a losing proposition even if the Sox were decent due to WLS’ ongoing issues. With a rebuild setting a positive trajectory for the years ahead, a fresh deal might be eminently doable.
If the Sox and WLS do split, WMVP-AM 1000 is a possibility. Chicago’s ESPN Radio affiliate previously broadcast the Bulls before they jumped to WLS.
WGN-AM 720 could be back in play. as it was reportedly interested in acquiring the White Sox’ radio rights at the time WLS acquired them. Its deals with the Blackhawks and Northwestern football could create crowded schedules early and late, as it already shuffles Wildcats games to WMVP when schedules conflict.
There’s also WBBM-AM 780, which previously broadcast the Cubs before they moved to the White Sox’ former flagship, WSCR-AM 670. It was said at the time of the switch that baseball wasn’t a great fit for WBBM’s all-news format, although the White Sox have fewer day games during the week.