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1985 Bears Coverage: Ch. 2 enjoying a Bears market

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Ch. 2 enjoying a Bears market

P. J. Bednarski

Originally published Nov. 12, 1985

For television stations and advertisers, the fourth quarter – the financial quarter, we mean – is becoming a Bears market.

Though fourth-quarter television advertising nationally and locally is generally flat, Gary Cummings, WBBM-Channel 2 general manager, says Bears’ game local advertising is far ahead of last season, when the Bears were good, but not great.

This year the Bears are the NFL’s only undefeated team and game ratings on Channel 2 are up 26 percent over a year ago. According to Channel 2 research, for the season so far, Bears’ games on Channel 2 are averaging a 29 rating and a 62 percent share of audience.

That means on an average week, 29 percent of Chicago’s 3 million households are watching the Bears, and 62 percent of the homes watching TV are tuned to the Bears.

At the same time, sources say a local commercial in a Bears’ game has leaped from around $8,000 at the beginning of the season to $15,000 now – and that’s if you can get one. Local stations only get 6 1/2 minutes from the network to sell.

If the Bears get to the Super Bowl, sources estimate that WMAQ-Channel 5, which will carry the game in prime time, could charge as much as $100,000 for a local 30-second commercial – a Chicago record.

Last Sunday’s Bears-Detroit Lions game grabbed a 35 rating and 66 percent share, and that was an ordinary game with no championship on the line. By comparison, the frustrating fifth and final game of the 1984 National League Championship Playoffs between the Cubs and the San Diego Padres earned a 44 rating and a 73 percent share of audience – apparently still the largest sports audience in Chicago TV history.

If the Bears continue to the Super Bowl, that local record is sure to be shattered.

Dick Daggett, WMAQ’s director of sales, won’t quote a dollar figure, but does say, “I’m certain it will be the largest viewing event in Chicago history. Hell, it’s got to be. The game’s in January, when HUT levels jargon for households-using-television are high. And Super Bowl viewership is always larger than what ratings record because people have parties, or watch it at bars.”

The most-watched show in Chicago history was the final episode of “M-A-S-H,” which got a 55.4 rating and a 72 percent share. But, Daggett suggests, on any given Super Bowl Sunday . . .