My latest Chicago Tribune column is on the local TV ratings for the Cubs and White Sox for 2014 compared to 2008, when both teams made the playoffs and baseball was king in Chicago.
You also can access a link to the full column via my Twitter feed at @Sherman_Report.
From the column:
On May 28, 2008, Alfonso Soriano’s game-winning single in the 10th inning gave the Cubs a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers. While a crowd of 39,945 jammed Wrigley Field, many more fans throughout the Chicago area were sitting in front of their televisions to watch WGN-9’s telecast.
WGN averaged an 11.3 local rating for the game, peaking at 16.6. That means nearly 600,000 homes were tuned in. Those are astounding numbers for a regular-season game in May.
In 2014, the Cubs don’t even average 50,000 homes for many of their games.
The landscape was much different six years ago. Everyone was on the Cubs bandwagon. They were en route to a National League-best 97 victories and second straight Central title. The White Sox also had a great season, winning the American League Central in a one-game playoff.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks barely registered on the radar (0.6 average rating on CSN for the 2007-08 season) in the days before Stanley Cup titles, and Derrick Rose had yet to begin his rookie season with the Bulls.
Indeed, 2008 was the last time baseball was king in Chicago among pro teams not named the Bears; the NFL operates in an entirely different stratosphere.
Looking back not only reveals the huge decline in local ratings for the Cubs and Sox, but also shows the potential if (when?) the teams become good again.
Here are the not-so-happy totals on the cable side:
• The Cubs, headed for a fourth straight season with 90 or more defeats, are averaging a 1.5 rating for their games on CSN this year, down 72 percent from their 5.0 average rating in 2008; 1 local ratings point currently equates to 36,000 homes. CSN pulled an 8.3 rating for the Cubs’ 6-4 victory over Milwaukee on July 28, 2008. It still is a record for a Cubs game on CSN.
• The Sox are averaging a 1.4 rating for their games on CSN in 2014, down 27 percent from their 2.3 average rating in 2008. The good news for the Sox is that their ratings are up 23 percent from 2013, when they lost 99 games.
WGN declined to disclose its 2014 ratings for the Cubs and White Sox. The station has been very quick to boast of strong ratings from the Blackhawks and Bulls in recent years — and even for that Cubs-Dodgers game in 2008 — but remains silent when there’s bad news.
It is safe to say the ratings declines for baseball on WGN are similar to what CSN has experienced.