Cubs score one for the record books

CSN Chicago is also "flying the W" in the ratings department.
CSN Chicago is also “flying the W” in the ratings department.

Cubs destroy competition off the field, including the once-mighty NFL – setting a cable TV record in the process

Despite loss, Cubs clinch NL Central

Even with a loss last night against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs continue to roll with a dominant ratings performance on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

According to a press release, the Brewers-Cubs telecast Thursday night on CSN Chicago was the top-rated program in the Chicago area, defeating all broadcast networks – including an NFL game between AFC East rivals the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills (more on this later.)

The Cub game drew a local 11.2 household rating and a 6.0 adult 25-54 demo – making it the most-watched telecast of any sport on the 12-year old regional sports network (RSN). Ratings peaked at a 13.4 at 10:15 p.m., easily defeating local newscasts on three channels.

Fans tuned in droves to see if the Cubs could make it a Hat and T-shirt Night – a.k.a. clinching the NL Central for the first time in eight years and clinching a division title for the fifth time in 35 years. The Cubs lost, but a loss by the St. Louis Cardinals late in the evening clinched the title for the North Siders anyway.

The success of the Cubs is benefiting its media partners: CSN, ABC-owned WLS-TV, WGN-TV, and WSCR-AM, and is certain to benefit baseball playoff partners Turner Sports, Fox, and FS1 in October as long as the Cubs are playing.

On the other hand, the Cubs’ playoff run is poised to provide headaches of entertainment network presidents – and the NFL.

With the new television season set to launch Monday, the major networks’ entertainment programming face the added distraction of a MLB Playoffs featuring the Cubs as the major marquee – certain to drain live viewership even more. No doubt the networks will emphasize the Live + 3 ratings metric (live viewing plus three-day-DVR/streaming playback) in any press release they put out.

Meanwhile, the NFL took another ratings hammer last night as CBS and NFL Network’s first Thursday Night Football game of the season drew a 9.5 household rating for the CBS and NFL Network telecast, down 26 percent from last year’s comparable telecast between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. The game was also streamed on Twitter, marking the first an NFL telecast was shown on the social media platform. The Twitter stream drew 243,000 viewers, with an average watch time of 22 minutes.

Also of note was a Cincinnati-Houston college football game drawing 2.1 million viewers for ESPN. No matter the platform, both football games were easily beaten in Chicago by the Cubs.

There has been some concern (and debate) whether or not NFL ratings have peaked, with first-week numbers down by double-digits from last year’s season-opening games. A Cubs-fueled MLB playoffs could draw away more viewers from football – yes, the Cubs were in the playoffs last year (where they were swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS), but this year’s team is poised for more success, given the Cubs currently have the best record in baseball.

And next week’s NFL prime-time matchups won’t get any better – two of them features a downtrodden, awful Bears team. Remember them?