Bears, Bulls pack ’em in on Christmas

Chicago sports fans had good reasons to cheer on Christmas Day as they received gifts from two of their teams – even though one of those gifts should be sent back.

According to Nielsen ratings information obtained by Fang’s Bites and Sports Media Watch, Chicagoans and the rest of the country tuned in for the return of the NBA and the lone NFL game of the day, as the rest of the football slate (except for the Monday Night Falcons-Saints game) were played on Christmas Eve.

The Chicago Bulls kicked off their long-delayed NBA season with a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on ABC. The game scored a 17.4 household rating locally on WLS-TV and a 12.2 for KABC-TV in Los Angeles. Nationally, the game did a 6.5 overnight rating, down from the 7.3 from last year’s Miami Heat-Lakers matchup. The final hour of the game drew 8.53 million viewers and a 3.3/8 in adults 18-49 in fast nationals (final numbers won’t be released until tomorrow.) The game went down to the wire when Derrick Rose (above photo) of the Bulls scored the game-winning basket with just seconds left in the fourth quarter.

The opening slate of NBA games on Christmas Day (delayed by the now-concluded lockout) proved successful for the league as the Knicks-Celtics and Heat-Dallas Mavericks matchups were ratings successes – TNT’s opening tip-off of Celtics-Knicks drew 5.9 million viewers and a 3.4 household rating – up 113 percent from TNT’s 2010-11 regular season average. The telecast also the fourth-highest rated TNT telecast of all time.

ABC’s first game of its traditional Christmas Day doublehaeader featured a rematch of last year’s NBA finals between the Heat and defending champion Dallas Mavericks. The game averaged a 5.6 rating, up 6 percent from last year’s Boston/Orlando matchup.

But even Derrick Rose’s growing popularity wasn’t enough to overtake the Chicago Bears.

As expected, NBC’s Sunday Night Football game between rivals the Chicago Bears and the defending champion Green Bay Packers drew a 29.2 household rating in Chicago, and a 12.6 overnight rating nationally – the highest rating for a Christmas night game since 1995. NBC drew a total of 17.33 million viewers and a 5.5 rating/18 share in adults 18-49, in fast nationals provided by Nielsen and TV Media Insights (final numbers won’t be released until tomorrow.) Despite the good number, the rating was down 16 percent in households from Week 16’s prime-time game last year, a delayed Vikings-Eagles tilt played on a Tuesday night.)

In Milwaukee, the Bears-Packers game earned a whopping 45.8/73 household rating/share for WTMJ.

The Bears lost this game as expected (no Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, or Johnny Knox) but did keep it somewhat close, which explains the high interest (not to mention they were playing the Packers, which always generates interest locally.) But the 29.2 local rating is lower than other Bears-Packers games played in – the NFC Championship Game featuring these two teams on January 24 drew a local rating of 50.6/80.

With their fifth straight loss, the Bears fall to 7-8 on the season and are eliminated from playoff contention. Funny how one up-and-rising team in town is eclipsed in the ratings by one owned and run by idiots.  Then again, there are a lot of Packers fans in this market, so who knows?

But in a town where a losing North Side baseball team packs ’em in year after year (and still manages to score decent ratings), one can only help but think.