When an NFL game is on a cable channel, the local rights in the cities involved in the game are farmed out to a broadcast station, so that cable-less local fans can also watch the game.
Last night, for the first time, WCIU-Ch. 26 was the local station that got the broadcast rights. Why WCIU and not ESPN's corporate partner, WLS-Ch. 7? Here's why:
Disney-owned WLS-Ch. 7, which cut a deal with WCIU to carry corporate cousin ESPN's coverage of Bears-Packers locally so it could air ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" live in the nation's No. 3 market, was rewarded with a 17.4 household rating (or a bit more than 609,000 Chicago homes).
As good as the DWTS numbers were, though, the Bears ratings dwarfed it locally:
An average of 1.34 million Chicago-area homes were tuned into the game, or 38.3 percent of the households in the market from 7:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. Most here watched the telecast on cable's ESPN, which scored a 24.2 household rating locally, while the over-the-air simulcast on Weigel Broadcasting's WCIU-Ch. 26 averaged a 14.1 household rating.
Six different local broadcast channels will carry Bears games this season; in addition to usual NFL broadcast partners Fox (WFLD-Ch. 32, 10 games), CBS (WBBM-Ch. 2, two games) and NBC (WMAQ-Ch. 5, next Sunday vs. the New York Giants) and yesterday's game on WCIU-Ch. 26, Bears games can be seen this year on WGN-Ch. 9 (Thursday, November 18 at Miami, a game cablecast on the NFL Network) and WLS-Ch. 7 (Monday, December 20 at Minnesota, the Bears' next appearance on ESPN).