The Media Notepad: Bears ratings up thanks to Mitch Trubisky

Anthem protests, weak record doesn’t deter fans

Also news on a former Bears star; NBC 5; FCC

(Editor’s Note: An earlier draft of this post mistakenly featured a picture of Drew Brees  for the first item. Apologies. -T.H.)  

While ratings for the NFL have declined nationally – allegedly due to anthem protests, that is not the case in Chicago – at least with the Bears.

According to the Chicago Tribune, ratings for Bears games are up from last year despite the team’s continued on-the field woes. The first eight games of the season have averaged a 20.2 household rating, up 5 percent from last year at this time when the team was heading into a bye week.

The Tribune also points out the number of homes watching the Bears also grew – but not by much. The increase was only by about 1600 homes because the size of the Chicago market has shrunk, according to the newspaper. As yours truly reported last week, the number of homes in the Chicago market dropped by 163,340 from last season according to Nielsen with roughly a quarter of them African-American. The decrease may have also impacted the Cubs’ playoff numbers – ratings for the defending World Champions (who are no longer defending) were down from last year, although getting blown out in a few of those NLCS games against the Dodgers didn’t help.

Sunday’s loss to the Saints earned the Bears a 20.5 household rating for WFLD-TV Sunday.

The reason for the ratings increase is obvious: Mitch Trubisky. The hype surrounding the rookie from North Carolina is driving viewership – and the Bears have been in every game right up to the end. A recent Monday Night Bears game outdrew a Cubs playoff game on the same day – though the Cubs game aired in early fringe (afternoon).

The anthem protests also don’t seem to have an impact on Bears viewership here, unlike elsewhere where the numbers are taking a hit. Excluding week three when most players demonstrated some kind of protest during the national anthem, no Bears player has taken part so far.

Speaking of the Bears, a former player of the team has landed another co-hosting gig. Anthony “Spice” Adams, who co-hosts Inside The Bears with Lauren Screeden on WFLD and sister station WPWR, has been tapped to co-host The Great American Baking Show, a holiday mini-series scheduled to air on ABC starting December 7. His co-host is Ayesha Curry, who is an author of several cookbooks and is wife of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.

The series has aired on ABC in the past as The Great Holiday Baking Show and has drawn decent ratings. The series is based on UK broadcaster Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off (which also airs on Canada’s CBC and on PBS as The Great British Baking Show) and is scheduled to run for three weeks.

Adams played for the Bears and the San Francisco 49ers before he retired in 2011. Produced by the team, Inside the Bears airs on WPWR Saturdays at 6 p.m. and WFLD Sundays at 11:05 p.m. year-round. To see more of Bears, click here.

Good grief, it looks like NBC-owned WMAQ’s 10 p.m. news ratings have fallen into a ravine – the newscast has fallen further behind ABC-owned WLS-TV in recent weeks with year-to-year losses in households and in adults 25-54. And this comes despite the return of Rob Stafford to the anchor desk, after months of being out due to a medical condition.

This comes as ABC 7 has cemented its position on top at 10 p.m., thanks in part to the success of its parent network’s new Monday night drama The Good Doctor, which has been the surprise standout this fall season.

Meanwhile, household ratings for CBS-owned WBBM-TV has increased for its 10 p.m. news show – up from October 2016.

Late newscasts for ABC 7 and NBC 5 were impacted by the Cubs playoff run with games extending well past 10 p.m. – although this was also the case in October 2016 and during the Blackhawks’ numerous playoff runs.

As for NBC 5, it is hard to pinpoint what the problems are, but yours truly has noticed the station speeds through several stories in the first and second blocks, with several news items lasting thirty seconds or less – similar to new first-run syndicated strip Top 30. Not sure if this is a smart strategy for a local newscast going forward.

In an unprecedented move, it looks like the FCC is going full-steam ahead on media consolidation. Among items on the menu in their November 16 meeting include a possible vote on media ownership rules – including eliminating the “eight voice test”, i.e. determining the number of independent media voices in a given market, and axing the TV/radio/newspaper ownership rule, on the books for 42 years.

Already, the FCC Main studio rule was eliminated last week in a 3-2 bitterly partisan vote.

These rules were dropped before – in 2003, then-Chairman Michael Powell eliminated the cross-ownership rules and other regulations, but an appeals court halted action – leaving them in place. It’s unlikely the courts would take action this time thanks to new tech competitors (Netflix, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.) with industry groups claiming the tech giants have eaten up local share and revenue – even though the latter two have been embroiled in “fake news” controversies.

There have been some recent splits of grandfathered combos, going back for 1975 when the cross-ownership rules were adopted. For one, CBS Radio is being sold to Entercom, which would technically separate them from their CBS-owned sister TV counterparts in top markets. Tribune split into two in 2014, with Tribune Publishing renaming itself Tronc and its former Tribune Media TV arm now being sold to Sinclair. Some radio-TV-newspapers combo still exist – mainly in Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and Dayton.

Will we see more consolidation? In Chicago, don’t look for Tronc nor the Chicago Sun-Times – who was recently bought by a consortium led by former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath and several union groups – to buy any TV or radio stations anytime soon. A purchase of WGN-AM from Tribune/Sinclair for example, would not be financially viable for either of them – at least in the near term.