Marquee Sports hires McCarthy to run new network

Launch on track for February 2020

After hiring him as a consultant, the Chicago Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Tuesday the hiring of Michael McCarthy as the general manager of the new Marquee Sports Network, scheduled to launch next February.

“We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Mike and his proven ability to drive results over the past several months at Marquee,” said Crane Kenney, who is president of business operations for the Chicago Cubs. “With his combined sports and media background, Mike is the right person to bring our network online and deliver unprecedented Cubs coverage for our fans.”

The news comes as Sinclair recently won the bidding for Disney’s 21 regional sports networks for $10 billion.

McCarthy credentials are quite strong: he served as president of MSG Network, home of the New York Knicks and New York Rangers where during his tenure, won 75 Emmy Awards and instrumental in launching the careers of play-by-play personalities Gus Johnson, Doris Burke, and Mike Breen. McCarthy also was vice chairman and CEO of the St. Louis Blues and COO of the Milwaukee Bucks.

In a statement, McCarthy said: “I’m thrilled to be a part of the launch of the first independent regional sports network for the Chicago Cubs. The recent transformation of this iconic brand is incredibly impressive and the next big effort to better serve Cubs fans is the launch of Marquee. For years, I watched the Cubs become a nationally recognized brand. For that reason, I’m honored and intensely motivated by the confidence the Ricketts family, Sinclair and the Cubs have placed in me to add to the incredible broadcasting experience enjoyed by fans for the past 70 years.”

Barring any changes, Marquee will be the exclusive home of all non-Fox and non-ESPN Cubs games as the team’s contracts with ABC-owned WLS-TV, Tribune’s WGN-TV, and NBC Sports Chicago all expire at the end of this current season. It also likely means no more  over-the-air games on free TV.

So far Sinclair and Marquee have yet to strike any carriage deals with cable and satellite providers and has also yet to outline any streaming plans, but it’s early. But a glimpse of how the network would be run came Monday when Kenney in an exclusive interview with The Athletic said the team would likely have a more “hands-off” approach when it comes to Marquee, meaning Sinclair would basically have operational control of the network.

Marquee’s layout is similar to Charter’s Sportsnet LA, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ cable channel – pre and post game shows, an “all-access” magazine show, and replays of classic games. Let’s hope Marquee is available in more homes than SportsNet LA currently is, as the channel still doesn’t have any deals outside of Charter’s cable systems.