Raising the Barr in Chicago

Looks like WLS had a pretty rocking May book, putting further distance between itself and the competition in Chicago. A peek at the prelim numbers shows WLS taking 10 p with a 10.1 HH rating/17 share, well ahead of WMAQ’s 6.4/11. (WBBM grew its late news pretty significantly since last May, but is still stuck in fourth.)

President/General Manager Emily Barr says the ABC O&O tends to put up big numbers when there’s a run of major news in Chicago, such as a senator winning the presidency, a governor getting sacked, or the city winning an Olympic bid–not to mention the overall economic malaise that keeps viewers tuning in.

“We knew there’d be that potential for a greater amount of viewership,” she says. “We usually pop a number when there are big news events going on locally.”

WLS may have benefitted from some fluidity around town, such as new GMs in at WBBM and WGN and new NDs at BBM and WFLD. But Barr says it’s about putting the resources on stories of local interest wherever they may be, such as Blago venturing to New York in the midst of his crisis.

“I think it’s safe to say that our reputation is such that a story of that magnitude–wherever that story takes us, we’ll be there,” she says.

Should be interesting to see how the fledgling LNS partnership shared by, oh, just about everyone but WLS in Chicago affects ratings in the future.  

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.