Winds of Change

Why This Matters

Local flavor

Local flavor

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed 17,000 buildings and killed 250 people.

2004 marks the 70th anniversary of the death of John Dillinger, who was gunned down by the FBI in Chicago as he left the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue.


Local flavor

The Demos

For a while, one needed a scorecard to keep up with the goings-on in Chicago television. Personnel changes, both on-air and off, swept the market in 2002, a little less so in 2003.

The story to watch in the Windy City today is the resurgence of CBS-owned WBBM-TV. The perennial doormat of local news scored some major gains during the November sweeps and was the only station to improve its late-news ratings from a year earlier.

WBBM-TV has been on a tear since the arrival of Joe Ahern as president and general manager in August 2002. Ahern, a station manager with ABC-owned WLS-TV earlier in his career, has lured more than a dozen news employees from other Chicago stations and scored a major coup in October when he attracted popular anchor Diann Burns from WLS-TV.

Emily Barr, WLS-TV president and general manager, concedes that, while WBBM-TV has made some gains, much of the improvement can be attributed to two factors: the strength of lead-in programming from CBS and the presence of ABC's Monday Night Football, which takes WLS-TV out of the equation for one night each week.

"If you look at the numbers on a Tuesday-through-Friday basis," Barr said, "you see their increase is all of three-tenths of a rating point."

WLS-TV regained the top spot at 10 p.m. (10.9/17, down 9%). WMAQ-TV, which won the time period a year ago, finished second in this year (9.8/16), after shedding 23% of its audience, the biggest drop of any station in the market.

Advertising revenue recovered nicely in 2003, with stations' billings rising an estimated 3.5% to just over $860 million, according to figures provided by BIA Financial Network.

Independent stations do well in Chicago. Longtime independent WGN-TV, which is owned by Tribune Co., a part owner of The WB, generated more revenue last year ($135 million) than WBBM-TV ($94 million) or Fox's WFLD(TV) ($126 million), according to BIA estimates. WCIU-TV, a true independent, lays claim to being the No. 1 station in total households between noon and 5 p.m. In 2002, Fox paid $425 million to purchase WPWR-TV, the UPN affiliate.

Source: Chicago Public Library