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Bears-Packers on 1.8 million Chicago TVs

Updated: January 25, 2011 2:33AM

Sunday’s NFC championship game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers drew more viewers than the Bears’ 2007 Super Bowl appearance, but not as large a rating as the team’s 1986 Super Bowl telecast, according to the Nielsen overnight television ratings in the Chicago market. Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 pulled a 50.6 rating and an 81 share Sunday. That means 1,771,000 households in Chicago were tuned in to the game.

Nationally, the Bears-Packers game notched a 28.1 rating on the Fox network, and was watched by an average audience of 51.9 million viewers. Game ratings peaked at 4:30 p.m. with a 31.5 rating and 59.5 million viewers. It was the highest-rated NFC championship game in the early time slot in 14 years.

In Chicago, the 81 share means more than 4 out of every 5 televisions turned on in Chicago while the game was in progress were tuned in to watch the Green Bay Packers defeat the Bears. The ratings beat — by a small margin — the Super Bowl telecast in 2007, when the Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts, which scored a 50.2 rating in the Chicago market. In 1986, the Bears’ Super Bowl appearance drew a 63.0 rating.

On Sunday, the city’s other major TV outletswere left with barely any audience for their counter-programming. Top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 managed just a 0.5 rating (17,500 households) while the Bears game was in progress. Both CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and NBC-owned WMAQ could do no better than a 0.4 rating each (14,000 households each).

The impressive television ratings for the NFC championship game capped a season of surging ratings for the Bears. The 2010 season, however, started out fairly quietly as few fans or football pundits expected the team would end the season as a possible contender to go to the Super Bowl. The Bears’ first game of the season against the lowly Detroit Lions scored a 26.1 rating in the Chicago market. But by week 12, the Bears were gaining momentum, with the game against the Philadelphia Eagles earning a 39.6 rating. The Bears’ highest TV rating during the regular 2010 season came on week 15, when the team clinched the division with a win against the Minnesota Vikings that scored a 40.7 rating in the Chicago market.

By then TV watchers seemed to be hooked on watching the Bears. In the divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, the Bears pulled an even bigger number in the Chicago market — a 43.2 rating.

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