Market Profile: Chicago

Politics and the trial of fallen Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is playing out against a backdrop of tough times for the Windy City, with steep unemployment at 10.8 percent,
However, the advertising market, boosted by auto and retail and the anticipation of brisk political dollars by the end of the summer, is coming back.
WLS-TV, ABC Television’s owned station, has no equal when it comes to local news. Not only does the station win in the ratings for all its newscasts, it also holds fast to its independence as a news-gathering organization. The other major network O&Os, WBBM (CBS), WFLD (Fox), WMAQ (NBC) and WGN, Tribune’s CW affiliate, are in a local news service to share video, while each scrambles to catch WLS-TV.
In mornings, WMAQ and WGN are neck and neck in Adults 25-54, followed by No. 3 WFLD. Early news is also tight, with WGBO, Univision’s O&O station, targeting Chicago’s growing Hispanic population (up 59 percent since 2000 and the nation’s sixth-largest Hispanic market) No. 2 to WLS.
WMAQ, which got a big boost from the Blackhawks march to a Stanley Cup victory in June, is a strong No. 2 in late news followed by WBBM, WFLD (which airs its local news at 9 p.m.), WGBO, and WGN.
For those looking for media drama, there’s Tribune, which owns WGN-TV, WGN America superstation, The Chicago Tribune, WGN-AM and CLTV, the 24/7 cable news station. The once buttoned-up media company filed for bankruptcy in December 2008 and has been in protracted negotiations with creditors ever since; a vote on the plan could come at the end of July.
Run by colorful and veteran radio exec Randy Michaels, WGN-AM took a run at talent from Michaels’ old stomping ground in Cincinnati to remake the lineup at WGN. WGN and WBBM-AM are in tight competition for the top ratings spot. In May, WGN was one-tenth of a rating share point behind WBBM; in April WGN was on top.
A big sports town, CBS Radio’s WSCR leads in the ratings. But coming on strong is ESPN Radio’s WMVP-AM, which in April 2009 launched its first local Web site, quickly becoming Chicago’s top sports site, logging 1.7 million unique visitors in May.
The Chicago Tribune, the ninth-largest U.S. newspaper in terms of circulation, is still losing readers despite a number of changes that have turned the paper into a flashy tabloid. At the end of March, Tribune circ dropped nearly 10 percent to 452,145. The Chicago Sun-Times, which emerged from bankruptcy last September, is hurting even more, with circ down nearly 14 percent to 268,803. Both papers recently raised newsstand prices—the Trib  to $1 from 75 cents, and the Sun-Times to 75 cents from 50 cents.
With all the changes at both papers, there could be room for new competition. The Wall Street Journal, which recently launched a local New York section, is looking at a similar approach in Chicgo.
There’s no shortage of out-of-home inventory in the market where the nation’s three largest outdoor groups, Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor and Lamar Advertising, all offer broad coverage. There are also plenty of digital opportunities. Clear Channel has 24 digital boards, and CBS has two full-motion LED placements, as well as mobile advertising up and down Michigan Avenue. Titan offers digital signage on buses, and displays in the commuter rail system. JCDecaux and CBS Outdoor have transit advertising. Clear Channel offers advertisings at both airports.
The Chicago Cubs are close to winning approval from the city to construct a 360-square-foot illuminated sign over the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field advertising Toyota. The sign is expected to bring in about $2 million annually for the team.