It’s a great time to be a White Sox fan.
Yes, Cubs fans, such a time does exist.
The Sox are at a place in their rebuild where their games finally are more compelling than confounding. They’re giving their fans reasons to watch that are more tangible than the hope that accompanies each prospect.
Sox fans see the future, and they like what they see.
In fact, the Sox’ ratings on NBC Sports Chicago are up, according to Nielsen Research. Through Tuesday, the team’s season average was a 1.06 household rating (1.0 in the Chicago market equals about 32,514 households). That’s up 41 percent from the Sox’ 2018 average of 0.75.
The Sox’ game June 8 against the Royals made NBCSCH the highest-rated network in the market for the length of the game (1 to 3:45 p.m.). It’s probably no coincidence that Lucas Giolito was on the mound, and he delivered with a stellar outing in a 2-0 victory.
To provide context, the Cubs’ season average on NBCSCH was a 3.99 rating through Tuesday, which was down 9 percent from a 2018 average of 4.38. But as far as the Sox are concerned, up is up.
Live streaming of Sox games is way up. According to NBCSCH, the average of unique viewers per game on NBCSportsChicago.com and the MyTeams app is up 104 percent from last season. And the network’s ancillary Sox content, such as its “White Sox Talk” podcast, has seen huge increases, as well.
“We work with the Sox on this a lot,” said Kevin Cross, NBCSCH senior vice president and general manager. “We’ve gone out of our way on all of our platforms to educate the fan base as to what’s coming. Now it’s coming.”
And there’s more to come, not just in the form of players, but content. Now that the Sox have their fans’ attention, they’re going to bring them up close and personal with the players, hoping to create a connection that lasts.
“We’ve thought about it and discussed it a lot,” said Brooks Boyer, Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re at a cool pivot point of this process. Now we can start talking about our players. We have players that people want to get to know.”
Boyer spoke of promoting Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Giolito and sharing their stories. Fortunately for the Sox, most of their players aren’t shy.
“It’s the next generation of Chicago sports athletes, who are engaged in social media,” Boyer said. “These guys have grown up with this being a thing. So our guys aren’t afraid of letting people get to know them.”
Other draws for Sox fans are people they already know. Boyer believes Jason Benetti and Steve Stone have hit their stride together in the game booth. And Cross has heard from viewers who stay tuned for the postgame show to hear what Ozzie Guillen and Frank Thomas have to say.
“I think fans really connect with our talent, and honestly I think that leads to [the ratings increase], as well,” Cross said.
The timing for a Sox bump couldn’t be better for NBCSCH, which will lose the Cubs next season to the Marquee Sports Network. Baseball provides a regional sports network with its biggest inventory, so a Sox team on the rise could help alleviate whatever ratings the Cubs take with them.
In the meantime, Sox fans figure to stay tuned while their team develops. They finally saw Jimenez hit a home run at home Tuesday, and Giolito’s next start is Friday against the Yankees. Top pitching prospect Dylan Cease’s arrival appears to be on the horizon, as well.
“Fans want to have something to get excited about,” Cross said. “The Sox are delivering on that. You can see it in these ratings.”