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Comcast SportsNet president Jim Corno dies

Updated: December 10, 2013 10:36PM

Jim Corno was at the forefront of modern sports television in Chicago, from the infancy of SportsVision in 1984 to the rise of Comcast SportsNet, a dominant player in sports broadcasting.

‘‘The average fan may not immediately recognize Jim’s name,’’ White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said Tuesday, ‘‘but I think perhaps no one else in this city has done more over the past four decades to impact the Chicago sports landscape.’’

Corno, 66, the president of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, died Tuesday after battling cancer.

‘‘Jim was not only a close friend and partner, but a savvy businessman who has long helped sustain the Blackhawks brand in Chicago,’’ team chairman Rocky Wirtz said. ‘‘As a pioneer in cable sports broadcasting, Jim was very influential in the evolution of televised sports as we Chicagoans know it today. Jim’s legacy and passion to bring the games, stories and sports heroes in Chicago closer to the fans will live on for many years to come.’’

Corno worked with Wirtz to put more Blackhawks games on television. He also was the prime negotiator in 1999 in getting the Cubs to move some of their games from their longtime home on Ch. 9 to Fox Sports Net Chicago, one of the precursors to Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

‘‘Jim Corno Sr. was a good friend to the Cubs,’’ the team said in a statement. ‘‘For 15 years, Jim was a true partner, launching two networks that brought more Cubs games to the Chicago market. Jim spent his life at the top of the cable business, which at times can be a bruising endeavor. Jim always rose to the occasion and got further with affiliates, leagues, sponsors and advertisers by using common sense, trust and delivering on his promises.’’

Corno, a native of St. Louis, helped turn SportsVision into the first regional sports network to broadcast 24/7. It evolved into SportsChannel, then Fox Sports Net Chicago, then Comcast SportsNet in 2004, with Corno at the helm each time.

Corno devised innovative programming to go with game coverage, including bringing the longtime radio panel show ‘‘The Sportswriters’’ to television and the first nightly local all-sports news show, ‘‘The SportsChannel Report.’’

Corno brought the Hawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox into a partnership with Comcast SportsNet when the teams opted out of contracts with Fox Sports Net.

‘‘No matter the situation, Jim always thought about the sports fan first,’’ Reinsdorf said. ‘‘Whether the game was baseball, basketball or hockey, Jim’s focus and obsession was always on how to improve the experience for the viewer sitting at home, watching and rooting for his or her favorite Chicago team. Jim thought that way because Jim was that Chicago fan sitting on his own couch or in the television studio celebrating the key victories and suffering the tough losses.’’

Corno earned numerous Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, as well as induction into the academy’s ‘‘Silver Circle’’ and into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame last year.

He is survived by Carolyn, his wife of 47 years; two children, Jim Jr. and Christina; and five grandsons.

Twitter: @toniginnetti

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