T Dog’s Media Notepad: CSN to stream Cubs, White Sox games



Eric and Kathy reup; Blackhawks continue to slide in ratings; CW changes stations in San Diego…again; This is Us renewed two years; Esquire Network closes


In good news for Chicago baseball fans, Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Major League Baseball Thursday announced a live streaming deal for Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox games beginning with the 2017 season, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Fans with authenticated credentials can stream the games for free on their smartphones, tablets, and other devices via the NBC Sports App (CSN is a property of NBCUniversal) and on CSNChicago.com. The Cubs, White Sox, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Blackhawks each have an ownership interest in Chicago SportsNet. Last year, Fox Sports’ regional sports nets struck a similar deal.

White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement: “We are very pleased that our partners at CSN will be able to provide fans with the opportunity to watch the White Sox anywhere. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for fans to watch their White Sox, regardless of where they are or what they are doing. Sports fans deserve to see all the action all season long.”

Chicago Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said: “After such a historic season, we are thrilled Cubs fans will be able to stream games on their choice of device, either inside or outside the home. This access has been years in the making for our fans, but the timing is awfully good given the excitement around the 2017 campaign.”

The North Siders won their first World Series championship for the first time in 108 years last year, ending the longest drought in sports. Their championship run brought boffo ratings for CSN Chicago last season.

In more CSN Chicago news – but not as positive, the Chicago Blackhawks continue to slide in the ratings. According to Crain’s, the team ratings are down 17 percent from last year at this time, currently averaging a 3.15 Nielsen household rating. The ratings decline comes despite the team playing well, staying at or near the top of the Western Conference standings.

While the publication cites tough competition from Cubs playoff and World Series games, keep in mind the Winter Classic matchup on Jan. 2 featuring the team dropped 35 percent in the local ratings from the last time the Blackhawks were in the Classic, a 2015 matchup against the Washington Capitals.

WGN-TV declined to release ratings average for their Blackhawks games to Crain’s – which could mean the numbers might not be as good as they hoped for. WGN dropped its CW affiliation last year in order to have more room to air sporting events.

As noted above, CSN is now streaming games – and it may have had an impact on ratings. Keep in mind ratings for linear television is on the downswing as more and more viewers are watching TV on multiple devices. The NHL and CSN struck a deal to live-stream games back in November.

WTMX-FM (The Mix) and owner Hubbard Broadcasting announced earlier this week a multi-year contract renewal for morning personalities Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

For the last twenty years, Eric & Kathy finished first among listeners in the key 25-54 adult and female demo. With the exception of WGN’s Wally Phillips, no morning radio program has dominated as long as they have. Hubbard Radio President and COO Drew Horowitz said in a press release: “I’m thrilled to have the most successful morning show team in Chicago Radio history continuing their run on The Mix and remaining an integral part of Hubbard Radio.”

In what can be described as good news for NBC, the network has announced two renewals for its freshman shows: freshman drama sensation This Is Us, which has been picked up for 36 more episodes over two more seasons; and The Wall, renewed for twenty more episodes.

This Is Us recently scored a high of 3.0 in the key adults 18-49 demo, and is also critically acclaimed: do we say dare the word Emmy? Meanwhile, the not-as-well reviewed Wall has seen ratings growth in its Tuesday slot – recently tying an episode of NCIS in the key 18-49 demo and beating ABC’s comedies in the same demo.

Also, Fox’s The Mick recently picked up an additional episode order, as the series continues to build from its New Girl lead-in on Tuesday Nights, opposite Wall and NCIS. Despite continuing declining ratings on broadcast, it is nice to know a few new midseason shows are bucking the trend. There’s hope for network TV after all!

Once again, The CW is on the move in San Diego. CBS affiliate KFMB-TV announced in a press release the station was acquiring the CW affiliation and is moving it to one of their digital subchannels, yet to be determined. This means current affiliate XETV, located over the border in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, would likely revert back to an independent for the first time since 1986. The move takes place Sept. 1, 2017 – a year to the day when a similar move happened here in Chicago, with The CW moving from WGN-TV to WPWR-TV.

Neither The CW or XETV were available for comment.

This is the third San Diego station CW has been affiliated with: in 2008, The CW shifted its affiliation to XETV after Fox moved to Tribune’s KSWB-TV after 22 years due to concerns over a foreign station being its affiliate. This time however, The CW did not specify any reason why it decided to switch its affiliation to KFMB.

Oddly, there is an existing independent in the market; KUSI-TV, who filed a suit against Fox in the 1990s stating a U.S. network shouldn’t be affiliated with a foreign-based station carrying live sporting events, as Fox acquired rights to carry NFL games beginning in 1994. A similar suit was filed in 1968 by KCST-TV (now NBC-owned KNSD) when XETV was affiliated with ABC; the FCC forced XETV to give up the affilaition to KCST in 1973. In 1977, ABC jumped ship to KGTV after the station dropped NBC.

With this move, San Diego has now gone through five affiliation realignments – the most of any major TV market in the country. There was nearly six – NBC nearly affiliated with KFMB in 1990 but the station decided to continue its partnership with CBS, which began when the station signed on in 1949. KFMB is the only station in San Diego that’s never been through an affiliation change.

The announcement comes a week after the San Diego Chargers announced they were moving back to Los Angeles after 56 years. But at least the city still has Comic-Con – for now.

If a barely-watched cable network falls in the woods, does it makes a sound? Say so long to The Esquire Network, which is closing after only four years due to lackluster ratings and coverage. The move comes after AT&T dropped Esquire from its U-Verse and DirecTV systems recently. The channel isn’t going away – Esquire is converting to an online-only model.

The channel was a joint venture between NBCUniversal and Hearst Corporation. Originally launched in 1998 as female-targeted Style, the channel underwent a transformation in September 2013 when Hearst bought a stake in the channel and change the format to target it toward the male-skewing Esquire magazine it owned.

But ratings were barely visible, as was dropped by Dish last October and by DirecTV/U-Verse last month – costing 25 percent of its audience. Original programming on Esquire include dreck such as Knife Fight, The Next Great Burger, and Friday Night Tykes.

Yeah, it won’t be missed.

This is the second channel NBCUniversal has closed in recent years; the network pulled the plug on G4 officially in December 2014. Ironically, Esquire was to replace G4 but decided to replace Style instead due to wider reach via Dish and DirecTV. And it was both satellite services’ decision to drop Esquire from their channel lineup which factored in their demise.