For better or worse, the worldwide spotlight on Chicago lately hasn’t been a positive one: the city continues to make headlines for its gun violence epidemic, as Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has name-dropped Chicago every chance he got as a symbol of what’s wrong in America – a tactic conservative commentators have used for years.
But there is some relief on the way (albeit short-term) in the form of Cubs post-season baseball as the team looks to win its first championship since 1908 and win its first World Series since 1945 in what hopes to be a long, historic run.
Starting tonight, the Cubs play the San Francisco Giants in the first of a five-game National League Division Series, starting tonight at 8:15 p.m. CT on FS1 (Fox Sports 1). But in an rather asinine move, game two of the Giants-Cubs series is being exclusively shown on MLB Network, Major League Baseball’s cable channel, which is not available in many homes – even in those who already have cable or satellite (remember, it’s all about getting cable and satellite providers to add the channel to their lineup.)
But there is good news: MLB Network is offering “a free preview” so viewers who don’t get the channel see can the Cubs and the Dodgers-Nationals NLDS playoff game on Sunday. The rest of the Giants-Cubs series and the entire National League Championship Series will air on FS1 and the World Series would be on Fox.
If the Cubs advance to the World Series, Fox-owned WFLD would seeing a huge windfall (and the ratings- starved Fox network itself.) The station is already seeing increased ratings for its signature 9 p.m. newscast. According to the Chicago Tribune, some local spots on the station during the playoffs have already sold out.
The Cubs’ playoff success comes at a time when NFL games are seeing ratings decreases, due to (or not) national anthem protests: i.e. players kneeling, sitting, or raising fists during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. The Presidential Debates also have had an impact.
Thankfully for Cubs fans, the debates are taking place on Sunday, a night where the Cubs and Giants have off.
Meanwhile, Fox and WFLD aren’t the only ones trying to capitalize on Cubs fever – other Chicago media outlets – TV and radio – are also looking to cash in.
Tribune’s WGN-TV is adding Cubs Nightly, a half-hour show at 6 p.m. with Dan Roan and contributions from Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, who is also working the fifth inning during Cubs radio telecasts. The show features Cubs previews, highlights, interviews with Cub players, and more (Cubs Nightly won’t air if the Cubs play at the same time.)
Not to be outdone, WFLD is adding a 6 p.m. show of its own starting tonight, Blue October: Cubs Playoff Pregame Show, on nights when the Cubs are playing. The show is hosted by Lou Canellis and former Cubs outfielder Bob Dernier.
On the radio side, there was plenty of action – David Kaplan of WMVP-AM hosted a Cubs pep rally Thursday in the Rush Street area; CBS Radio had five of its radio stations broadcast its morning shows in and around Wrigley Field ; and WSCR (the local Cubs rights holder) held a 13-hour live remote and pep rally in downtown Chicago.
And last but not least, WLS-TV’s Windy City Live held an on-air Cubs pep rally Thursday, with ESPN’s (and South Side native) Michael Wilbon as guest.
As long as the Cubs are in the playoffs, you will see more of this type of programming as it generates ratings and revenue (especially the political kind, with the elections a month away.)
But is reality around the corner? On Tuesday, Forbes baseball writer Maury Brown sent out this tweet on what could happen if the Cubs don’t make it past the Giants in the postseason:
I like the best teams in the postseason, but for the love of humanity, the Cubs better beat the Giants. It'll kill television if Giants win.
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) October 6, 2016
While this is certainly true, no one will feel the pain more than Fox and Chicago’s media outlets in the form of missed revenue.
[Editor’s Note: An item in the fourth and fifth paragraphs contained some incorrect information on what network the NLCS is airing – it is FS1, not Fox. T Dog Media regrets the errors. – T.H.]
This post was updated on October 11, 2016.