Cut the cord but still watch sports? New network is suburban trio's answer

 
 
Updated 9/15/2018 4:41 PM
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  • Left to right, Adam Anshell, Andrew Schnell and Jason Coyle are heading Stadium, a new national sports television network targeting fans dropping cable TV. Here, they are in Stadium's studio overlooking the United Center's atrium entrance.

      Left to right, Adam Anshell, Andrew Schnell and Jason Coyle are heading Stadium, a new national sports television network targeting fans dropping cable TV. Here, they are in Stadium's studio overlooking the United Center's atrium entrance. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville resident Andrew Schnell is a top executive for Stadium, a new national sports television network targeting fans dropping cable television. Stadium is based in atrium offices connected to the United Center.

      Naperville resident Andrew Schnell is a top executive for Stadium, a new national sports television network targeting fans dropping cable television. Stadium is based in atrium offices connected to the United Center. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Launched in 2017 and headquartered in United Center atrium offices, the Stadium sports television network is targeting sports fans dropping cable.

    Launched in 2017 and headquartered in United Center atrium offices, the Stadium sports television network is targeting sports fans dropping cable. Courtesy of Stadium

For television viewers interested in cutting the cord on cable but afraid they'll miss out on live sports, a trio of suburban residents think they may have the answer.

Naperville's Andrew Schnell, Northbrook resident Jason Coyle and Adam Anshell of Glenview are leading Stadium, a free national sports television network targeting fans who are dropping cable television.

The 24-hour network is reaching viewers through its website, along with platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, Android TV, Roku, Fubo TV and even cable. Stadium, which receives most of its revenue from advertising, also is available over the air in the Chicago area on WJYS-TV 62.2.

Headquartered in offices attached to the United Center, it's the only sports network based in the Midwest. The network's studio looks out to where fans enter the building through the east atrium, an area popular for photo opportunities with the Michael Jordan statue.

Schnell, managing director of corporate development for Stadium, sees the roughly 1-year-old enterprise's potential just from those he knows in the Western suburbs who have shifted away from cable.

"More and more people are starting to get digital antennas and they send me pictures when they get (Stadium)," said Schnell, who grew up in Downers Grove and attended Marmion Academy in Aurora. "And there are kind of more and more people that are getting these virtual (multichannel video programming distributors) and they're saying, 'When are you getting on there?'"

Northbrook resident Jason Coyle is chief executive officer of Stadium. It's a new national sports network catering to fans dropping cable television.
  Northbrook resident Jason Coyle is chief executive officer of Stadium. It's a new national sports network catering to fans dropping cable television. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Coyle, Stadium's CEO, said he was getting ready to explain digital antennas to a Northbrook neighbor in his 50s when the man let him in on something -- he already had one, along with a Roku box and some purchased apps to watch sports without cable TV.

"He said, 'We cut the cord a long time ago,'" Coyle said.

Stadium -- backed by Bulls and White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the PGA Tour and other co-owners -- has five studio shows and a live sports menu that includes 22 high school football games from across the country and 32 regular-season college contests from Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference and the Patriot League this year. More live sports are available from a $4.99-per-month premium service.

Blackhawks and Bulls fans entering the United Center through the atrium can view Stadium's shows. It'll be the first full sports season for the studio in an area that, in addition to the Jordan statue, has the Madhouse Team Store and Mad West for coffee, sandwiches, craft beer and cocktails.

This is called the "bullpen" area where employees produce content for Stadium, a roughly 1-year-old national sports television network based at the United Center's atrium building.
  This is called the "bullpen" area where employees produce content for Stadium, a roughly 1-year-old national sports television network based at the United Center's atrium building. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

"We're obviously hopeful for the Blackhawks and the Bulls to have better years this year," said Anshell, managing director of operations. "And with that comes more people coming here earlier and being able to witness what we're doing, seeing what we're doing and really be a part of it because they can be in the background of our shots. We want to have that energy and that excitement and people coming and being a part of the broadcast themselves."

Cord cutting recently was addressed by the Chicago-area's dominant cable TV provider. In a presentation to investment analysts in July, Comcast said it lost 140,000 video subscribers in the second quarter of this year.

Nationwide, at least 33 million people are expected to drop cable this year, according to New York-based research firm eMarketer. That would be on top of the 27.1 million cord cutters in 2017.

However, the country's leading cable sports network, ESPN, still has millions of viewers despite the subscriber losses.

ESPN's total average audience rises to as many as 208 million Americans in a month, and it airs nearly all of cable's most-viewed programs, according to the network. For those without cable, ESPN+ is now available as the network's first multisport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service for $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year.

Stadium spokesman Anthony Mazzuca said ratings for the new network likely won't be available for at least six months. ESPN spokeswoman Amy Phillips declined to comment on Stadium.

Coyle said Stadium is differentiating itself with intelligent programming and a Midwestern sensibility in seeking good sports stories that aren't being told by the networks based on either coast. He said it's a great time to be building a new national sports network in the evolving digital landscape.

"We know you can't get locked into cable, because it's going to end up capping your distribution," Coyle said. "We know that you have to be agnostic and cleared for all platforms. And we can be everywhere. We can be on television. We're on every single digital platform that matters. We're on all the social platforms."

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