Cubs' rise to playoffs leads to boost in local TV ratings; White Sox lowest-rated

CHICAGO -- The final numbers are in, and as expected, Cubs TV broadcasts were a smashing success in 2015. As for the White Sox, to paraphrase Hawk Harrelson, their ratings were barely a duck snort.

According to Sports Business Journal/Sports Business Daily’s semi-annual look at regional sports network ratings across the 29 U.S.-based MLB teams, using Nielsen data, the playoff-bound, 97-win Cubs had the second-biggest ratings increase in baseball at a whopping 122 percent with a 3.31 rating for their 83 games on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. That is the equivalent of 112,317 market TV households watching per game, according to a CSN Chicago news release, which credited the Cubs with a 3.32 average.

Last season, according to SBJ, the Cubs finished with a dreadful 1.50 rating. Considering the Cubs own a portion of CSN Chicago, the viewership boost should help them in their quest to add more player payroll next season.

The red-hot Cubs finished 50-25 in the second half, obviously helping to attract more viewers. In SBJ’s midseason ratings, which counted the Cubs’ 87 games before the All-Star break, their average rating was 2.92.

The ratings average doesn’t include numbers from WGN or ABC-7, the latter of which picked up 24 games this past season in a pricey rights deal.

The Cubs also had a sizable increase in attendance this season, with an extra 3,799 fans per game. That was the fifth-biggest increase in baseball. The Wrigley Field average crowd of 36,541 was the sixth-best in baseball.

But the Cubs are far from being “back” in terms of viewers and ticket-buying fans. To put the Cubs’ 3.31 in perspective, they averaged a 4.19 in 2009. That same year, which came after the Cubs’ last playoff appearance, the Cubs drew 39,610 fans.

So there’s plenty of room to grow for the franchise with the young, marketable stars.

Speaking of room to grow, the White Sox were the lowest-rated team in baseball with a 0.82 average TV rating. Their 29 percent decrease from last season was the fifth-worst in baseball. The Sox (76-86) fired their bench coach Mark Parent before the final series of the season in an attempt to shake things up.

Only two other teams finished with an average rating below one point: The Oakland Athletics (0.91) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.95). The Dodgers are still having distribution problems in the Los Angeles market.

Thanks to a lot of buzz about their offseason moves, the Sox actually had the eighth-biggest attendance increase in baseball at 1,051 fans per game. But their per-game average of 21,947 was the fifth-worst in baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball Reference information.

Not surprisingly, CSN Chicago did not send out a news release about White Sox TV ratings or about some pending broadcast news. Bruce Levine of WSCR-670 radio was first to report that Harrelson, the Sox's longtime broadcaster, will work a reduced schedule in 2016, calling mostly road games.