It’s been a little while since we checked in on the Chicago Cubs’ TV ratings for this season, which should not lull you into thinking that story is not wildly important. It still is.
To reiterate that importance, here’s what I said the last time we checked in on these things back in April:
You may not be super into the ratings game, but, how the Chicago Cubs perform in the ratings in the next couple years is probably going to be significantly important in determining just how strong the long-term TV deal will be after 2019 – and, in turn, the strength of that deal is going to determine just how much resource strength the Cubs’ front office has to work with.
That long-term deal is likely to be negotiated over the course of the next year or two, which means showing strong ratings this year is huge. It proves that, (1) yes, when the Cubs are competitive, the fans will tune in, and (2) the Cubs could be competitive for a long time.
At that time, the Cubs were seeing ratings they hadn’t seen since the summer of 2011. That spike followed some at the very beginning of the season, which, in turn, followed a spike late last year – although the Cubs were still near the bottom of the standings, you’ll recall that some youngsters were emerging and the Cubs were actually winning some games. The incremental would-be-TV-watcher fans started to take note, and the ratings worm began to turn.
The turning continues, with the latest data indicating that the competitiveness and genuine excitement surrounding the team is translating to more eyeballs when it is more important than ever that the Cubs get those eyeballs.
For example, last week’s incredibly exciting – but then nightmarishly disappointing – loss to the Cardinals was the highest rated game of the year on CSN at the time:
— Jeff Nuich (@JeffNuich) July 9, 2015
To give that number a little context, last year on CSN, the Cubs averaged a mere 1.5 rating, in the bottom five of baseball. Last September, even when the ratings were spiking, the Cubs reached only about 3.2.
Moreover, Danny Ecker reports that the average rating for the Cubs on CSN this year is 3.0, representing a double from last year. The household figure is more than 100,000 per game, which would put the Cubs within the top five in all of baseball.
In other words, the Cubs are blowing away their ratings from recent years, and are currently among the most locally-watched teams in all of baseball.
The climb, it seems, is real.
So, against that backdrop, it figures to be a pretty good time – or at least a much better time than it was a couple years ago – to be negotiating a long-term, mega-bucks TV contract. Because these deals are franchise-altering, because they are so long-term, and because the technology landscape is changing so rapidly, getting this deal right is literally the single biggest story in the Cubs’ world right now, even as it is usually lurking below the surface of that day’s game or the latest rumor.