Cubs, White Sox viewers continue to flee for exits

Okay, Lucy. Time to get out of the pool, baseball season is over.

White Sox now dead last in TV ratings, with Cubs right behind them

It’s been a tough summer for local Chicago television.

First, Chicago viewers are turning off local news in greater numbers (and as a reward, we’re getting more news!) And now, they’re turning off local baseball – again – as both the Cubs and the White Sox continue to pile up the losses – again.

According to a recent ratings report for RSNs (regional sports networks), both Chicago teams are at the bottom of the ratings list and hurting Comcast SportsNet Chicago, who after a season of highly-rated Blackhawks games, came crashing back down to earth with yet another mediocre season of Chicago baseball.

The report excludes the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros, whose RSNs are involved in major carriage disputes, lowering their reach. The Toronto Blue Jays are also excluded due to a different ratings system used to measure audiences in Canada. As a result, the report lists only 27 teams.

And of those 27 teams, according to Forbes and Nielsen, the Chicago White Sox came in dead last with a 1.38 household rating on CSN. Despite the low ranking, the rating was up from last year’s 1.1 White Sox games couldn’t even beat summer reruns on the major broadcast networks or other first-run fare on cable.

Though the team’s poor play is to blame for the low ratings, many others point to the low quality of the White Sox telecasts themselves, notably the play-by-play of Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, considered to be the worst in all of sports (understatement of the year.)

Don’t laugh Cubs fans – your team is right behind, with a 1.4 rating for CSN games and ranked 26th out of all RSNs, down a whopping 72 percent from last season.

Topping the lost are the Detroit Tigers, with an 8.4 household rating, for Fox Sports Detroit, followed by a tie for second between the St. Louis Cardinals (on Fox Sports Midwest) and Pittsburgh Pirates (Root Sports), both with a 7.56 rating. All three of course, are contending teams and each finish first in their time slots.

Cubs and White Sox games also air on WGN-TV; ratings were not available for over-the-air broadcasts, which there are very few of in Major League Baseball nowadays.

While the numbers for Chicago baseball are indeed depressing, there are some bright spots, at least for the Cubs: the hype of Javier Baez’s debut actually paid off: Tuesday’s game against Colorado drew a 2.0 household rating for CSN, up 43 percent from the season average.

And keep in mind despite the low numbers, Cubs and White Sox baseball still draw better numbers than many first-run syndicated shows in Chicago, notably out-rating almost everything on Fox’s duopoly stations, WFLD and WPWR.

As for the Cubs, the team has yet to strike an over-the-air TV deal for next season, leading to speculation that a deal might not be struck until after the current baseball season is over. WGN of course, is the current rights holder and has seen since 1948; the station is reportedly losing $200,000 per game because of the diminished ratings and revenue. WGN has reportedly offered a revenue-sharing agreement instead; it may be the only way to keep the Cubs on the suddenly financially-minded Tribune Media-owned station.