This year’s good timing award goes to ABC-7 and WBBM-AM 780.
In December, ABC-7 signed on for a five-year package of Cubs games despite the team’s TV ratings sinking to historic lows in 2014. John Idler, the station’s president and general manager, figured the ratings would rise dramatically at some point. He didn’t, however, expect to hit the jackpot this year.
“The timeline has been accelerated,” Idler said. “The (2015) ratings definitely have exceeded our expectations.”
Meanwhile, WBBM says the station is drawing ratings 30-50 percent higher than at the start of the season for its game broadcasts during the first year of its radio deal with the Cubs.
The Cubs turnaround has confirmed what everyone thought: They were a sleeping giant on the ratings front.
Through Wednesday, Comcast SportsNet was averaging a 3.2 rating for Cubs games, up dramatically from 1.50 in 2014; 1 local ratings point is worth an estimated 35,000 homes. WGN-9 is averaging a 4.7 for its Cubs telecasts, more than double from last year. ABC-7 is doing a 4.5 rating for the 22 Cubs games it has aired.
Those numbers don’t even tell the whole story. The ratings have exploded with the Cubs’ surge since the All-Star break.
ABC-7 averaged a 7.9 rating between 7-8:15 p.m. for the Cubs-Tigers game on Aug. 18 before a long rain delay halted play. WGN-9 peaked with a 7.3 rating for the Cubs-Brewers game on Aug. 12. CSN posted its highest-rated Cubs game in six years with a 5.1 rating for the game against the Brewers on Aug. 11.
Naturally, CSN vice president and general manager Phil Bedella is ecstatic to see the interest of Cubs fans after several lean years.
“This feels different,” Bedella said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen people who follow the Cubs closely this excited about the team and where it is going with these young players. Fans are thinking, ‘My God, these guys have the framework to be good for a long time.’ The demand for the Cubs is at a level we never thought we’d get to this quickly in the process.”
CSN, WGN-9, and ABC-7 are gearing up for even bigger ratings with the Cubs actually playing meaningful games in September. Knowing the team’s history, Bedella felt a bit sheepish in talking about a recent staff meeting about coverage plans if the Cubs clinch a playoff berth.
“We don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s something we have to do,” Bedella said. “We said, ‘When was the last time we had any discussions about the Cubs and the playoffs?’ It’s been a long time. It feels great to have that kind of conversation.”
Sox ratings: With the team failing to meet high expectations, the White Sox ratings on CSN have been mostly flat, hovering around a 1.0 average. Bedella, though, says the Sox have seen nice ratings bumps on the days and nights Chris Sale pitches.
Bedella also believes the Sox have benefited from the Cubs’ strong ratings.
“What we’ve seen before is that when one of the teams does well, it lifts all ships,” Bedella said.
Remote patrol: Brian Urlacher has signed on with ESPN 1000. The station will air “The Brian Urlacher Show” with Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman at 5 p.m. on 12 select Tuesday afternoons during the season starting Sept. 15. Bears guard Kyle Long also is back as a regular contributor to WMVP.
WBBM will encounter its first conflict with the Cubs and Bears both playing on Saturday night. The Bears-Bengals game will start on WBBM-AM 780 and WCFS-FM 105.9 at 5:30 p.m. The Cubs-Dodgers game then takes over 105.9 at 7:45 p.m. with the Bears continuing on 780. After the Bears game, the Cubs will be heard on both signals. WBBM will air the first John Fox show of the season at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Credit to the Chicago Tribune who originally published this article