Jason Benetti and Steve Stone will return to White Sox’ TV booth on multiyear deals

The chances of either leaving weren’t great, but the drawn-out process had fans concerned that another misstep by the organization was occurring.

SHARE Jason Benetti and Steve Stone will return to White Sox’ TV booth on multiyear deals
Jason Benetti and Steve Stone will return to the White Sox’ TV booth.

Jason Benetti and Steve Stone will return to the White Sox’ TV booth.

Ron Vesely/White Sox

White Sox fans have felt so much angst the last three years that they might have feared the worst as TV announcers Jason Benetti and Steve Stone remained without contracts less than a month before spring training.

The team put those fears to rest Thursday, announcing that Benetti and Stone will be back in the NBC Sports Chicago booth on multiyear deals. Benetti is entering his eighth season with the Sox and Stone his 16th. The chances of either leaving weren’t great, but the drawn-out process had fans concerned that another misstep by the organization was occurring, particularly regarding Benetti.

The biggest part of his negotiation was the number of games he’ll miss for other commitments. Last year, Benetti was the lead voice for Peacock’s package of early Sunday games, which had him leaving the Sox on most weekends. That came off his calendar when he joined Fox, for whom he has called college football and basketball. He’ll add major-league baseball this season.

Benetti’s last contract with the Sox didn’t specify an exact number of games he could miss. The Sox allowed him to call national games when he also worked for ESPN, but there wasn’t a set amount, only what was deemed reasonable. It left the contract up for interpretation.

His new contract is more specific about the number of games he can miss. It’s a common issue for local announcers who do national work, and the Sox have been supportive of Benetti’s efforts to diversify his portfolio. It raises the profile of the team and the network, but both still want their guy on their games as much as possible.

Benetti will be with Fox on many Saturdays, calling regional MLB games in the summer and college football in the fall. He added to his resume Monday, debuting as the host of “Throw It Down With Bill Walton,” an alternative NBA game telecast that streams on NBA League Pass. In the last month, he called his first two NFL games on TV for Fox. Benetti is as versatile as they come.

Stone doesn’t have Benetti’s conflicts, but he figures to take some time off during the season, as he usually does.

New Sox cable channel unlikely

NBCSCH’s rights agreement with the Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls expires in October 2024. Sox and Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has been exploring his options, including starting his own network with the Blackhawks, as the Sun-Times reported in June.

But industry insiders say Reinsdorf isn’t expected to pull the plug on NBCSCH, certainly not in this media environment. Cable subscriptions are diminishing, and though the bundle remains profitable, it’s not as profitable as it used to be.

Despite layoffs on its digital side, NBCSCH’s linear business is strong. It has quality game production and shoulder programming, and it has generated revenue in a trying time in the industry. Granted, outside of games, it offers few worthy content options, but viewers aren’t turning to the channel for those.

NBCSCH also has strong distribution. Not only is it part of Comcast under NBCUniversal, it’s available in market on four live-TV streaming services: DirecTV Stream, fuboTV, Hulu and YouTubeTV. The Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network has live-TV streaming agreements with only DirecTV Stream and fuboTV.

The worst-case scenario for a regional sports network is playing out with the Bally Sports RSNs, whose owner, Diamond Sports Group (a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group), is heading to bankruptcy court, according to Bloomberg. Marquee, which is jointly owned by the Cubs and Sinclair, is unaffected.

Say what you want about how Reinsdorf runs his teams. When he compares his broadcasting options for them, he knows the best place is right where they are.

Remote patrol

Former Cubs TV voice Chip Caray reportedly will return home to St. Louis to call Cardinals games for Bally Sports Midwest. Caray called the Braves for the last 18 seasons. He replaces Dan McLaughlin, whose 24-season run with the Cards ended in December when he resigned after his third arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Harry Caray, Chip’s grandfather, called the Cardinals from 1945 to ’69, then the White Sox from 1971 to ’81 and the Cubs from 1982 to ’97.

Best wishes to Hawks radio announcer John Wiedeman. His voice has been out of commission, so the team gave him this road trip off to rest it. He’s expected back when the Hawks return from the All-Star break Feb. 7. Joe Brand has done a wonderful job filling in.

Amazon announced that “Air,” which chronicles how Nike signed Michael Jordan, will be released in theaters April 5 before arriving on Prime Video. Ben Affleck directed the film and plays Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Matt Damon is Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro.

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