Local viewers tune out Bulls, Blackhawks

Local teams tank and so does their ratings

Like the weather, winter nights turned cold for each of the United Center’s tenants.

The last-place finishes for both the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks in their respective divisions this past season not only had local sports fans tuning out, but looking ahead to baseball season earlier than usual.

And bearing the brunt of the erosion was NBC Sports Chicago, who saw ratings shortfalls thanks for the team’s rotten seasons.

As noted by Sports Media Watch, the Bulls drew a season average 1.8 rating, down 9 percent from last year. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks did better with a 2.4 household rating, but was down 28 percent from last year and 40 percent from two years ago.

In each case, the numbers for both teams hit ratings lows for the first time in a decade. The last time both teams missed the playoffs in the same year was during the 2007-08 season.

The numbers are for NBC Sports Chicago only; ratings for WGN telecasts were not available.

In addition to the awful season for both teams, the Blackhawks also had to face competition from the Cubs’ playoff run early in the season and both teams had to face competition from the Winter Olympics in February, itself not a strong local draw. The NHL did not send their players to the games this year for the first time since 1994.

There were some good news – despite each teams’ poor performance in the ratings and in the standings, both led their respective leagues in attendance thanks to the size of the UC and fans’ continued willingness to see the games in person, but consider the honor a consolation prize. And the NBA had a strong regular season, with record attendance and increasing ratings, despite woes in the nation’s third-largest market.

As other cities have postseason excitement in their arenas over the weekend, the UC hosted comedian Kevin Hart. Fitting, given even the physical home of the Bulls and Blackhawks felt it needed some comic relief after a sports season that provided very few smiles.

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