T Dog’s Media Notepad: Bulls dragging down NBA ratings

Also: ABC 7 and WGN-TV are February sweeps winners; Tribune Broadcasting update; T.D. Jakes show is canceled; Legion, Good Wife renewed; Iron Fist debuts 

With the 33-37 Bulls once again struggling in the ratings locally, it comes as no surprise Chicago’s NBA team is dragging down the league’s ratings nationally. According to Nielsen via Sports Media Watch, March 12’s game on ABC between the Bulls and Boston Celtics drew just a 1.1 live-plus-same day rating and 1.7 million viewers – down 39 percent in rating from a comparable game two years ago. Not surprisingly, the game was up college basketball tournament games on CBS and on ESPN.

The number would have been worse if Northwestern had advanced to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the school’s long history.

The poor national numbers reminds some of the days the NBA struggled for relevancy in the late 1970s as NBA games on CBS were regularly trounced by college basketball on NBC. At one point during this period, the NBA Finals were shown on tape delay late-nights on CBS.

As for the Bulls, the team help set ratings records only a small-market franchise would: according to Sports Media Watch, the team has played in a third of the nine lowest games ever broadcast on national television. A recent Clippers-Bulls primetime game on ABC scored the lowest rating ever for a primetime NBA game – a far cry from the 1990s when Michael Jordan and the Bulls led the NBA to record ratings. With Dwayne Wade now out for the season with an injury (face it, they’re not making the playoffs), the team’s already bad fortunes look weaker.

The NBA is not the only league to over-rely on a Chicago team whose best days were in the rear-view mirror – the woeful Bears had four full nationally televised games last fall, with one against rival Green Bay getting beaten locally by a Cubs playoff game. 

In the off-season, the NBA has to address the issue of flexibility in scheduling games in primetime and Sunday afternoons. The days of getting a ratings solely from a market size (with the Bulls and the similarly woeful New York Knicks) are clearly over.

The end of Tribune as a media powerhouse is inching closer to reality. The latest story came in a report in Bloomberg Friday as an activist investor with Tribune is asking Fox to thwart any potential Tribune-Sinclair union. This comes on a report in Tuesday’s New York Post noting Sinclair CEO David Smith met with President Trump to discuss several issues, including raising the ownership cap now at 39 percent.

If the deal went through as is, Sinclair would own 28 percent of Fox affiliates – making it the second-largest owner group in the country and would yield significant clout in how the network is run. The Fox intervention wouldn’t necessarily mean Fox is interested in Tribune, but could enter into a consortium in buying the broadcaster.

Either way, Chicago’s very own WGN-TV and WGN Radio – may not be Chicago-owned for long, ending an era started all the way back in 1924.

February numbers for Chicago’s local news stations are in and ABC 7 (WLS-TV) won most local news time periods, but lost to NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV) at 10 p.m. in the 25-54 demo – WMAQ earned a 2.5 rating compared to WLS-TV’s 2.3, thanks to strong NBC lead-ins from prime-time programming (especially the trio of Dick Wolf Chicago shows.) In third was CBS 2 (WBBM-TV, 2.9 household, /1.0 in A25-54) and in fourth was WGN-TV (2.6/1.1). ABC 7’s 10 p.m. newscast dominated in households 6.3 to NBC 5’s 5.4. ABC 7 also dominated early fringe and access (4-7 p.m) and was the city’s most-watched TV station overall by a wide margin, despite ABC languishing in the ratings nationally (as are all of the networks.)

WGN also had good news, winning morning news in households and adults 25-54 from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and beating rival WFLD at 9 p.m. (4.0 to 2.0 in households and 1.7 to 1.1 in 25-54s), who is handicapped by poor Fox prime-time lead-ins. WGN also scored ratings increases in prime-time in February replacing CW programming (since casted off to WPWR), jumping from a 1.6 to 1.9 with Bulls and Blackhawks games and reruns of Two And A Half Men and Last Man Standing. Ratings only figure to go up with the return of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs next month.

One troubling trend for local stations is ratings declines from the previous year, especially at 10 p.m. Though not as bad as May 2014’s ratings report, it is cause for concern as more viewers are steering away from linear (live TV) viewing and those who still watch linearly are opting instead for cable news programs covering the ongoing drama at the White House (not to mention Chicago viewers may be getting fed up with the constant non-stop crime/murder/shootings coverage.) This was the case in Charlotte as ratings for the three cable news networks skyrocketed. 

For those interested, here are the local news sweeps results for Dallas, DetroitDenver, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and New Orleans.

Another syndicated show has bitten the dust: this time it’s T.D. Jakes’ daily talk show strip, as first exclusively reported by Broadcasting & Cable last week. Tegna, a station group who syndicated the series, said it was the “economics of daytime television” that led to the decision to halt production on the show.

The series aired weekdays at 9 p.m. on Weigel-owned WCIU-TV and at 9 p.m. on The U Too. Chicago was the largest market to air T.D. Jakes; the show did not air in New York or Los Angeles.

Tegna owns more than 30 stations nationwide and is producing fare in-house fare in order to rely less on nationally syndicated programming. After failing to find a syndicator, Tegna decided to sell the series itself – which is as they obviously found out, easier said than done. Tegna owns stations in Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Houston, Washington D.C., and other markets. The station group was formerly known as Gannett until the  company’s radio and TV properties split.

Tegna is now focusing its energies on new half-hour magazine strip BOLD (as tentatively titled) as a replacement this fall. Tegna is teaming with MGM to sell the show into syndication; so far, no clearances have been announced outside of the Tegna group.

In much better news, I have some renewals to announce – in fact several: FX has picked up Marvel’s new drama Legion for a second season; CBS All Access’ The Good Fight also for a second season, and HBO renewed comedy Crashing (produced by Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow) for… you guessed it, a second season.

According to Nielsen, Legion has averaged a 0.5 rating in the adults 18-49 demo (roughly the same number as Riverdale, which was renewed two weeks ago.) Meanwhile, Good Fight was strongly sampled thanks to airing its premiere episode on CBS.

All three series received solid scores on Metacritic.

On the other hand, this has not been the case of Netflix’s latest Marvel series, Iron Fist. As of this writing, the series scored a 37 on Metacritic, but a user score of 6.2. Iron Fist is basically set in the same universe as Marvel’s other Netflix shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage.) This is becoming too much like Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchises of shows – coming up next, we are going to see The Netflix Marvel Crossover Event, otherwise known as The Defenders.

And much as yours truly loves Rosario Dawson, does she need to be in every show (except Jessica Jones) playing Claire?