Marquee Sports Net Still Without Comcast Deal As Launch Approaches
Cubs execs at their Cubs Convention fan event over the weekend announced some new "carriage agreements" for the upcoming Marquee Sports Network, but there still is "nothing signed with Comcast's Xfinity, by far the Chicago area's largest carrier as it covers roughly half the market," according to Phil Rosenthal of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Fans are left "wondering if and when Comcast will cut a deal to carry Marquee," with less than 10 weeks until Opening Day and the channel set to launch Feb. 22. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said the team is "offering to Comcast the very same terms that have been agreed to by the 25 carriers that will pick up Marquee." Kenney: "It's encouraging to see that 25 distributors find our offering compelling and in fact reasonable." He added he is "confident we'll get a deal done with Comcast," though he suggested fans reach out to the carrier for more information. Kenney also said that he "didn't know whether a Comcast deal would be done by the 'first pitch of spring training or the first pitch of opening day, but those are clearly pretty big milestones.'" He added that Marquee's current deals "cover roughly 40% of the market" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19).
ALL-STAR LINEUP: THE ATHLETIC's Patrick Mooney noted the Cubs over the weekend also unveiled Marquee's "new lineup of analysts, which is their most impressive free-agent haul of the past two winters." Among those who will appear on Marquee's airwaves are Lou Piniella, Rick Sutcliffe, Ryan Dempster, Mark DeRosa, Dan Plesac, Doug Glanville, Jason Hammel and Carlos Peña. In addition to Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies "in the TV booth, Marquee's roster of on-air talent will also include studio host Cole Wright, sideline reporter Taylor McGregor and longtime sportscaster Chris Myers." Wright left a role with NFL Network to "come home to Chicago," while McGregor had "previously covered" the Rockies (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/18). In Chicago, Madeline Kenney noted Dempster still will do some "work for MLB Network" in addition to Marquee, while Sutcliffe "plans to split time working for ESPN and Marquee" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/19). Also in Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes Piniella plans to "do pregame shows for 15-16 games" for this season. Piniella, who was "one of the more popular Cubs managers in recent history," was "greeted with loud applause" at the Cubs Convention when he was announced for Marquee. Piniella said that he has been "lying low in Tampa the last few years after suffering a stroke," but he now is "completely recovered and ready to get back into the game on a limited basis" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20).
REPRESENTATION MATTERS: In Chicago, Phil Thompson notes a female fan at the Cubs Convention asked about why Marquee's analyst roster only included one woman, McGregor, alongside 12 men. Her question "received a round of applause." Kenney responded by saying, "We'll make sure the network has adequate representation" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20).
ADDITIONAL CONTENT: The TRIBUNE's Rosenthal noted Cubs minor-league games and a "repackaging of as many as 4,000 vintage Cubs telecasts are available to Marquee." The RSN's library "includes a version of the recent Cubs musical 'Miracle,' along with documentaries on players." There also will be "all-access, behind the scenes coverage a la the NFL's 'Hard Knocks' series and samplings from the Cubs' YouTube channel too." The Vegas Sports Information Net's "Follow The Money" also will run on the RSN, as will "game coverage from Stadium," in which both Sinclair and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf have ownership stakes. Also "available to Marquee will be content" from other Sinclair-owned RSNs. Marquee GM Michael McCarthy said that the net will "offer hourlong pregame and postgame Cubs coverage from a studio across from the ballpark." Meanwhile, both Kenney and McCarthy said that there have been discussions with WMVP-AM and Cubs radio flagship WSCR-AM about "possibly simulcasting content on Marquee" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19).