Cubs World Series’ victory is also one for all involved

cubsFox, WFLD, MLB, advertisers also have reason to pop out the bubbly

The Chicago Cubs’ World Series win is historic in many ways – and not just for the team.

Wednesday night’s achievement – the first championship for the team since 1908, brought dividends for Fox, advertisers, the game of baseball, and over-the-air television in general.

For one – the edge-of-your-seat, 24-like thriller that was game seven – won by the Cubs 8-7 in ten innings – may have been the best baseball game ever played. On social media, many were questioning Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s moves – actions that could have cost them a chance at a championship. But in the end, everything worked out – and the Cubs are hoisting the World Series trophy for the first time in the modern media era.

Although the Cubs’ historic win didn’t approach levels of the most-watched event in television history, it was the highest-rated baseball game in Chicago history.

Game seven of the Cubs-Indians drew a final tally of 40.045 million viewers and a 21.8/37 household rating/share.  Though far short of the final episodes of M*A*S*H (106.5 million), Seinfeld (76 million) and Friends (52 million), it was the most-watched baseball game in 25 years, since game seven of the 1991 World Series between Atlanta and Minnesota.

Game seven also outdrew all of NBC’s primetime Summer Olympics coverage. Given how much NBC paid for them, Fox made out like a bandit. Game seven also outdrew this year’s Academy Awards and Grammys telecasts.

Among adults 18-49, game seven drew a huge 12.6 rating, making it one of the top-rated programs of the television season in the key demo.

Overall, the 2016 World Series averaged 23.4 million viewers, a 13.1 household rating, and a 6.5 rating among adults 18-49 – the latter topping all NFL primetime games this year. And you know the numbers are better than last year’s Kansas City Royals-New York Mets World Series and the most watched since the 2004 World Series.

In terms of alternate platforms, Fox Sports Go drew an average audience of 343,565 viewers according to Adobe, a new streaming record.

Welcome back, Fox 32.

WFLD sets rating records

Locally, the Cubs – once an exclusive domain for cross-town rival WGN-TV – paid huge dividends for Fox-owned WFLD-TV as Wednesday’s Game seven drew a massive 51.8 rating/72 share, peaking at a 58/77 at 10 p.m. marking the highest rating ever for the station in its fifty-year history – an outlet once known for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; and reruns of The Banana Splits and M*A*S*H. The previous record was held by the 2010 NFC Championship Game (played in January 2011) between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

And in perhaps the ultimate sense of satisfaction for Cubs fans, the game seven clincher drew the highest rating ever for a baseball game in Chicago television history in records dating back to 1976 – even outdrawing the Chicago White Sox’s 2005 World Series clincher over the Houston Astros. In all, game seven now ranks as the second most-watched sports telecast in Chicago history – outranking all Bulls and Blackhawks championship games and finishing only behind the Bears’ Super bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 1986 (oddly, now the Chicago Bears now have the longest championship drought of any Windy City team at 31 years.)

Leading out of the game, WFLD drew a 28.8/57 for its local newscast, perhaps the highest-rated ever for the 29-year old news operation. Among adults 25-54, the game drew a 22.1/61. WFLD stayed on the air until 2:20 a.m. Thursday morning with coverage.

The Cubs’ World Series run paid dividends for WFLD – boosting its beleaguered news operation, which seems to fix its problems just in time (if you’ve read this blog for the last ten years, then you know what I mean – fail whale and all.) Anchors Jeff Herndon, Dawn Hasbrouck and Lou Canellis deserve props for their seamless on-air performance. Even before WFLD started airing the World Series, news ratings were reportedly up from a year ago.

Wait a minute…yours truly praising WFLD news operation? The Cubs won the World Series, didn’t they? :-)

If there was one downside to the news coverage of the Cubs’ clincher – on all stations, was the numerous live shots of drunken fans screaming into the microphone and a few revelers either taking shots at the rival White Sox, holding up political signs (one live shot had a Clinton/Kane sign in the background), and using profanity, which was the case on WLS-TV’s morning newscast Thursday.

Toyota' going places.
Toyota’s going places.

Advertiser benefits

With the Cubs in the World series, many marketers benefited – more no other than telcos (Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.), who spent millions of dollars on advertising – with many of them attack ads (sound familiar?)

Speaking of which, both presidential candidates bought ads during game seven, ruining our viewer experience. As expected, political advertising was also featured in local breaks – a huge win for the running candidates in getting name recognition.

Meanwhile, Budwesier aired a classic spot from 1984 after the game featuring Haray Caray you can view here. And then there’s this spot from Nike, created by the W+K agency in Portland, Ore.

And of course, Toyota was a big winner – because their name is outside the Wrigley field marquee featured prominently with the words “World Series Champions”.

Other benefactors included The Lincoln Motor Company (a fancier name for Ford); Taco Bell (with their steal a base, steal a taco promotion), and Geico.

Baseball benefits

We all saw what happened after Jackie Robinson West won the U.S. Little League Championship in 2014 (and later had it stripped) – everyone was talking about how baseball was cool again and how it was lead to a renaissance of the sport, especially in the inner city. Of course, it didn’t happen.

Will the Cubs victory do the same in 2016 – enough to re-claim the title of most-popular sport away in the U.S from the NFL? Only time will tell, though the Cubs winning the World Series gives the sport of baseball a boost – and at the right time as NFL ratings are in a tailspin. Keep in mind sports ratings are cynical, and what may be hot one moment may not be the next.

Next up is parade coverage on Friday – Chicago’s five local news stations are covering the festivities (thus pre-empting daytime programming), along with CSN Chicago and WGN America, who’s carrying WGN-TV’s feed.