The owner of the Chicago Cubs was booed at the team’s fan convention Saturday when he mentioned the Marquee Network, which set a launch date of Feb. 22, but doesn’t have a carriage deal with the area’s main cable provider, Comcast.
Yikes. Fans booing owner Tom Ricketts about Marquee network wasn’t a great start to #CubsCon pic.twitter.com/AVg4ui4ntbJanuary 18, 2020
The Marquee Network, a joint venture of the team and Sinclair Broadcast Group, will be the exclusive home of Cubs games starting this season.
Cubs games had been on TV with WGN since the dawn of broadcasting and on local cable with NBC Sports Chicago, partly owned by Comcast. So it remains unclear how many fans will be able to see games and how much that will cost, leaving many fans anxious--resulting in the negative reaction at the convention.
Starting networks has been a bonanza for teams like the Yankees (Sinclair owns a stake in the YES Network as well), but with cord-cutting the economics of the cable business has become more challenging. At the same time, after ending a 108-year World Series drought in 2016, the team has sputtered, failing to make the playoffs last season.
After being booed , owner Tom Ricketts told fans they won’t be booing next year, according to a clip distributed on Twitter.
At the annual Cubs convention, team execs announced a new carriage deal with RCN in Chicago. Previous deals--made as part of Sinclair retransmission negotiations--covered AT&T (DirecTV), Charter and Mediacom.
“The one that’s missing and the one that people have asked me about so much this weekend is Comcast,” Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney told the convention, according to the Chicago Tribune. “One thing you should know is we are offering to Comcast the very same terms that have been agreed to by the 25 carriers that will pick up Marquee. So it’s encouraging to see that 25 distributors find our offering compelling and in fact reasonable.”
According to Kenney, the distribution deals in place cover 40% of Cubs territory.
Marquee Network will televise about 150 Cubs regular-season games. Most of the rest will be on national outlets, like ESPN and Fox.
The network is bringing back many faces familiar to Cubs telecasts, including announcer Len Kasper, Jim DeShaies, whose faces were posted by the network on Twitter.
The network will also have Chris Myers of Fox doing some play-by-play and studio work. According to the Tribune, the network got a call from Cubs fan Bill Murrary encouraging it to hire Myers. “I think you might get him cheaply because he lives in L.A. and L.A.’s on fire right now,” the comedian said on a voicemail left for the network.
Programming on the network will also include an hour-long pregame show, repacked versions of 4,000 vintage Cubs games, the Cubs musical Miracle. documentaries on legendary North Side players and the gambling show Follow the Money from The Vegas Sports Information Network.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.