Chicago stations in for political ad revenue windfall

With Mayor Richard M. Daley’s decision not to run for a seventh term, it could mean good news for local television and radio outlets in the terms of revenue in the form of increased political advertising.

While the rest of us will being running to our nearest electronics store to buy Tivos, the announcement would mean a huge influx of political ad dollars into Chicago media outlets’ coffers, with plenty of candidates jockeying for Chicago’s top political job. Stations are already poised to reap increased revenue from political advertising from this year’s mid-term elections, taking place this November.

And with high interest in the mayor’s race, look for a ratings boost for Chicago’s television news outlets and news/talk radio stations, such as WBBM-AM, WLS-AM, WGN-AM, and WVON-AM.

Interestingly enough, this is what former WBEZ-FM host Ken Davis alluded to in a joking way, on Robert Feder’s Vocalo blog today (Davis, who spent eleven years in the Daley administration, debuts his new Chicago Roundtable public-affairs program Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on Chicago Access Network, which is Channel 19 on most Comcast cable systems.)

Chicago’s news outlets are already experiencing ratings increases for their 6 p.m. and 9 p.m./10 p.m. newscasts. During the month of August, three of the five local stations airing news at either 9 or 10 p.m. saw household ratings increases compared to one year ago and from their network lead-in. At 6 p.m., all three network owned-and-operated stations saw household ratings increases from August 2009. (CBS O&O WBBM-TV recently brought back Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson to anchor its 6 p.m. newscast.)

The numbers – households and the key 25-54 demos – are expected to continue their upward swing as viewers return from summer activities and the new fall TV and NFL seasons starts up.

In addition, four stations added 4:30 a.m. newscasts this year, while WGN-TV is adding weekend morning newscasts in the next few weeks and ABC-owned WLS-TV has expanded its Saturday morning news show an hour.

In other words, local news is far from dead.

And the mayoral race provides a seamless transition from the mid-term elections, which means we could be bombarded with political advertising from now until possibly April (good news for stations; bad news for the rest of us – including other advertisers.)

Still, increased interest from the upcoming mayoral elections is good news for Chicago media outlets, whose revenues have been battered by the recession with many clients (especially automobile makers) cutting back on advertising.

Though the mayor has often sparred with the press, he has always enjoyed support from Chicago’s television and radio community. Consider this: When Daley was first elected in 1989…

– There were four television networks, with Fox being the new kid on the block.

The Simpsons were still sketches on The Tracy Ullman Show.

The Cosby Show was the #1 show on television, with newcomer Roseanne second.

– Reality TV consisted of Cops, America’s Most Wanted, Geraldo, and Inside Edition.

Dynasty was still on the air (it was canceled in May 1989, shortly after Daley took office.)

– WLS-FM was contemporary-hit outlet WYTZ-FM, or Z95, and has gone through six format changes since.

– WLS-AM was still playing music (it flipped to talk full-time in August 1989.)

– Future American Idol judge Paula Abdul had a major hit album with Forever Your Girl.

– The most controversial talk show host of the time? The late Morton Downey Jr., whose TV show was canceled in June 1989.

– WLS-TV was the market’s #1 station and still is now.

– Arsenio Hall was America’s newest and hottest late-night personality. His show went off the air five years later.

– Univision-owned WGBO-TV was a low-rated English-language independent station which went nowhere in the ratings (Univision bought the station and flipped it to Spanish television programming in 1994.)

– Twitter, Facebook, Podcasting, and direct-to-home satellite TV did not exist, and your computers of choice? Either an IBM PC, Commodore, or the Apple II.

Wheel of Fortune, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Jeopardy! were on top of Nielsen’s syndication chart. They still are today – but a change is coming here as well: Oprah Winfrey is ending her long-running show four months after Mayor Daley leaves office.

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