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Sports media: The new NBC Sports Chicago says its calling card will be access

Starting in October, the home of the Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox will have a different feel to it.

NBC Sports Chicago studio host David Kaplan
Part of the reason NBC Sports Chicago gave David Kaplan a contract extension was to maintain its coverage of the Cubs, who are leaving to start their own network next season.
NBC Sports Chicago

The Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network will launch in February, but before then, another local regional sports network will debut.

The new NBC Sports Chicago.

It’s not moving in your channel lineup, and it might look just the same. But starting in October, the home of the Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox will have a different feel to it.

“It’s not the same old, same old minus one,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing. “This is going to be a network for Chicago sports fans. And I think the coverage that fans are used to, and especially for the three teams, is only going to be enhanced.”

According to Kevin Cross, NBCSCH senior vice president and general manager, that will be achieved through access.

“I think fans want to know as much information about their teams as they can get,” Cross said. “I think it benefits all of us, the fans, our network, the teams, to give more access, and I think that that’s going to be our calling card. Year-round access, too.

“There’s so many stories that take place off the court, off the ice and off the diamond that I think will bring the fans closer to the players, closer to the team. We can tell those stories. We can give people the access that they need so that they can connect better.”

The network’s timing is opportune in that the Sox are on the rise and the Blackhawks still boast star power while owning the third pick in the draft. The Bulls have the seventh pick in the draft, but their rebuild hasn’t bore fruit yet.

While Marquee will be all things Cubs, NBCSCH will remain all things Chicago. If there’s a competition between the two, it figures to be more for ad dollars than viewers.

“I’m sure the Cub fan probably has a certain sense of loyalty to a network,” Cross said. “But really they want to find where the game’s at. And I think the same thing for all of the other teams.

“Will there be a rivalry? Honestly, I think our main job is to satisfy the Chicago sports fan. Over-deliver on what the fan wants.”

That means NBCSCH will continue to cover the Cubs, just as it has covered the Bears since they moved their team-produced programming from NBCSCH to Fox-32 last year. Cross said that was part of the reason behind Cubs pre- and postgame show host David Kaplan’s contract extension.

“Kaplan really represents a lot of our Cubs content,” Cross said. “It’s the same thing with the Bears. We invest a lot in our Bears coverage.

“We want to make sure that the fan knows that we’re the one-stop shop on all the platforms for all the stuff they need all year long.”