Affiliates Go Deep for Super Bowl

WISH Indianapolis and WBBM Chicago cater to fans' cravings
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The Bears and Colts won't be the only teams in the spotlight this weekend. News crews from CBS affiliates WBBM Chicago and WISH Indianapolis will also be performing under the gaze of hometown fans.

The Super Bowl means huge viewer spikes before, during and after the big game, so the stations are attempting to satisfy their markets' seemingly bottomless craving for gridiron gossip. Some 141.4 million people in 45 million households saw at least some of last year's game on ABC, according to the NFL, while the broadcast averaged 90.7 million viewers—the biggest audience in 10 years.

Advertisers will pay an estimated $2.6 million for a 30-second spot this year, and although station managers in Chicago and Indianapolis decline to give details, such stations typically rely on premium rates for higher ratings.

"It's just phenomenal for us," says Jeff White, general manager at WISH, which is owned by LIN Broadcasting. "It's a great opportunity for us to showcase our people and our product."

CBS is airing the game, which is set to begin at 6:25 p.m. ET Feb. 4. But the two local affiliates were scheduled to kick off their coverage in earnest this past weekend. WISH main anchor Eric Halvorson arrived in Miami early last week and was set to contribute to a Super Bowl preview airing in prime Saturday, Jan. 27. Broadcasting in the No. 25 DMA, WISH's 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts feature live reports from Miami, and the primetime special Super Bowl Media Day coincides with the league's annual media circus Jan. 30. Insider reports are provided throughout the buildup by current Colts Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders, who have been hosting a weekly sports talker on WISH all season.

On game day, WISH's 6-9 a.m. Sunday Morning Daybreak program will extend until noon, focusing on all things Colts before handing off to network coverage. And LIN's local MyNetworkTV affiliate, WNDY, is airing a 24-hour Colts marathon called My Colts Mania, ending at noon Super Bowl Sunday.

A three-hour drive to the northwest, Chicago's WBBM—owned and operated by CBS and located in the No. 3 DMA—is equally immersed in Super Bowl mania. President/General Manager Joe Ahern, who covered the Bears''86 championship as a rookie GM at WLS, is promising a whole new take on the Super Bowl Shuffle. "We're into this at full speed," says Ahern, who sent two satellite trucks to Miami following the Bears' playoff win Jan. 21.

Mike Ditka, who coached the Bears''86 win, co-hosts 2 on Football with former NFL quarterback/WBBM lead sports anchor Mark Malone. Starting Jan. 28, the show is re-branded Mission: Miami—The Countdown and airs live each day from the Palms Hotel in Miami, often in prime, right through the post-game show. Ditka and Malone are joined by several reporters and anchors pitching in live reports; all told, Ahern says some 20 staffers will cover the game from Miami—himself included. "If people want to know about the Super Bowl," he says, "we're the place to turn."

As a CBS O&O (CBS is broadcasting the game), WBBM is enjoying the support of the mother ship. That means additional reportage from CBS Evening News and The Early Show in Miami, and production clout that other media outlets don't wield when it comes to getting things done amidst the media scrum in Miami. "Having such a successful broadcaster behind us," Ahern says, "means we can pick up the phone and make things happen."

It's difficult to quantify, but both cities are considered sports-mad. The conference championship between the Colts and Patriots Jan. 21 was the highest-rated program of the year, besting American Idol's 2007 premiere on Fox. White says around half—a huge number—stuck around for the post-game on WISH.

White won't estimate what having the Colts in the Super Bowl means for station revenue, but he will say, "The Super Bowl in and of itself is good for [all stations'] revenue gains, and [having Indy in it] makes it much bigger and better for us."

When the Bears won on the broad back of Refrigerator Perry in '86, Ahern says the Super Bowl scored around a 64 rating in Chicago. While he'll only allow that the buildup means extra revenue "in the millions" for WBBM, he expects blockbuster ratings again this time around: "From my vantage point, everybody's watching."

Online: flood the zone

Both stations are also flooding the zone online, including streaming video from Miami. WBBM's is offering interactive elements such as message boards, where viewers can send personal notes to Indianapolis fans and share where they were when the Bears won in '86, as well as fan-generated photo albums.'s home page has a running countdown to the Super Bowl, telling fans how long, to the second, before kickoff. Reporters are penning blogs from the host city, and the WISH site offers video of families making the trip from Indy to Miami. The Colts' post-season campaign is a huge boon for the Web. Says White, "Our Web traffic Sunday [following Colts/Pats] was up 40% over typical Sundays."

And even when the game—and post-game—has come and gone, the appetite for football news lives on for at least a few more days, say station bosses. "If we win, there's a parade," says White. "If we lose, there's still a celebration."

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