An excerpt from my latest Chicago Tribune column:
This year’s winner of the good timing award goes to WLS-Ch.7 and WBBM-AM 780.
WLS signed on for a five-year package of Cubs games in December despite the team’s TV ratings sinking to historic lows in 2014. John Idler, WLS’s president and general manager, figured the ratings would rise dramatically at some point during the deal when the Cubs rebuild kicked in. However, he didn’t 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 experiencing ratings increases between 30 and 50 percent 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 is averaging a 3.2 rating for Cubs games on its network, up dramatically from 1.50 in 2014; 1 local ratings point is worth an estimated 35,000 homes. WGN-Ch. 9 is averaging a 4.7 for its Cubs telecasts, more than double from last year. WLS is doing a 4.5 rating for the 22 Cubs games that have aired on its station.
Those numbers don’t even tell the complete story. The ratings have exploded with the Cubs’ surge since the All-Star break.
WLS averaged a 7.9 rating between 7-8:15 p.m. for the Cubs-Detroit game on Aug. 18 before a long rain delay halted play. WGN peaked with a 7.3 rating for the Cubs-Milwaukee game on Aug. 12. CSN posted its highest-rated Cubs game in six years with a 5.1 rating for the game against Milwaukee on Aug. 11.