ESPN have come to agreement with WCIU to air a Monday Night Football game featuring the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 27, according to Phil Rosenthal’s Tower Ticker blog.
This marks the sixth local outlet to carry a Bears game this upcoming season. Aside from the regular home of the Bears (WFLD, whose parent network Fox holds the NFC rights and WBBM-TV, who will carry the two CBS games when an AFC opponent visits Soldier Field), games are scheduled for WMAQ-TV, WGN-TV and WLS-TV, which will carry ESPN’s feed of the Bears-Minnesota Vikings game on Dec.20 (WLS and ESPN are both owned by The Walt Disney Co.)
The reason for the deal in the first place is because WLS will be carrying a live edition of Dancing With The Stars on Sept. 27. Otherwise, the show would have been forced to air in the wee-hours of the morning. Another reason is Chicago is one of Dancing’s strongest markets, where the show is the top-rated program in primetime. Delaying the program until 2 a.m. in the nation’s third-largest market would certainly the show’s national rating.
On October 5, a Vikings-Packers game – which featured the return of Brett Farve to Lambeau Field in a Vikings uniform – forced Dancing With The Stars to air at 2 a.m. on ABC affiliates WISN-TV in Milwaukee and KSTP in Minneapolis-St. Paul, two markets where Dancing also does well. There was no way those two stations were going to give up a game that big for an edition of Dancing.
WISN is expected to air the Packers-Bears game on Sept. 27, and they can with a major difference – Milwaukee is the 35th-largest market in the U.S., so delaying the show might not have such a major effect on Dancing’s national rating as it would if the show had been delayed in third-ranked Chicago.
As for WCIU, the station is expected to produce a pre-game show with possible assistance from sister station WDJT in Milwaukee, as noted by Tower Ticker (WDJT announced last week it was expanding its HD offerings outside of the CBS lineup, including airing Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in HD for the first time.)
This is not the first time WCIU has carried a Bears game – the station carried a Bears-Vikings game from ESPN a few years ago and a pre-season contest when then-pre-season rights holder WMAQ was carrying the Olympics.