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WTTW to broadcast professional women hoopsters

Originally published in Current, Oct. 3, 2005
By Karen Everhart

WTTW will broadcast the home games of the Chicago Sky, a new Women’s NBA franchise gearing up for its inaugural season next year.

The Chicago pubTV station will present Sky games as an alternative to mainstream sports on other channels, said WTTW President Dan Schmidt in a Sept. 29 [2005] interview on WBEZ-FM in Chicago. Professional women’s basketball “hasn’t exactly been embraced by many commercial stations,” he said.

After team officials announced the broadcast deal on Sept. 20, Chicago Sun-Times TV critic Robert Feder wrote a scathing column criticizing the arrangement as a “blatant misuse” of a public TV station.

“It’s one thing for a public TV station to air high school or even college athletic events from time to time,” Feder wrote. “But it’s quite another for public television to get in bed with a professional sports team.”

The vision for the Chicago Sky is to reach out to underprivileged girls in the city and give them positive role models, a goal that aligns with WTTW’s mission, Schmidt said on WBEZ. “This is definitely a way to serve an underserved viewer and provide a service that’s not readily available,” he said.

Chicago Sky President Margaret Stender told Current that WTTW is the broadcast partner she was looking for — one that shares the team’s values of women’s empowerment, diversity and positive role models.

WTTW will produce and broadcast at least eight home games. The station and the team will jointly pursue underwriting and split revenues.

“We won’t be accepting anything that wouldn’t comply with FCC guidelines,” said WTTW spokeswoman Holly Gilson. At least two of the team’s corporate sponsors, LaSalle Bank and Exelon, have major accounts with WTTW and understand the underwriting restrictions on the station, Gilson said. Details about sponsorship breaks have yet to be worked out, she said.

“WTTW will not do anything to jeopardize their business—they’re way too sophisticated for that,” Stender said. “We’re willing to live within the guidelines and so are our underwriters.” She looks to secure a second TV deal with a cable sports network for the remaining home games.

Web page posted Oct. 7, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Current Publishing Committee

EARLIER ARTICLE

In Connecticut, the biggest draw on the statewide pubTV network is the UConn Huskies women's team, and the network pays for rights.

LINKS

The Chicago team's and league's websites.

Sun-Times critic: "WTTW out of its league with pro basketball deal."

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