Marquee inks pact with Mediacom; but still no Chicago-area cable deal

Sinclair strikes deal to bring Cubs channel in 2020

We are now at a point where Cubs games are being shown in Des Moines but not in the Chicago area itself on cable.

Thankfully, Marquee isn’t launching until February.

As first reported by the Chicago Tribune Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs and Sinclair announced a carriage deal with cable provider Mediacom.

The Cubs and Sinclair Broadcasting are joint partners in operating the team’s regional sports network.

Mediacom is the nation’s fifth-largest cable operator in the United States and offers service in 22 states including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and others. Mediacom serves some portions of the Chicago market; suburbs include Minooka, Sugar Grove, and Yorkville; other far-flung areas outside of Chicago include Ottawa and Streator.

Mediacom is the dominant cable provider in Iowa, particularly in Des Moines and the Quad Cities area of Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline. Even though Cubs games on the channel are subject to blackout, viewers in Iowa will get to see Cubs games on Marquee when the channel launches on February 22.

Other deals reached so far include Charter Communications (Spectrum) and AT&T, whose DirecTV, U-Verse, and AT&T Now customers receiving the channel. But notably absent are three major Chicago-area providers: RCN, WOW, and Comcast. In an appearance on WSCR-AM Wednesday, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said Marquee achieved 40 percent of the channel’s carriage goals, and is already negotiating with Comcast, not to mention other streaming services such as Fubo and Hulu (he did mention PlayStation Vue, but that service is shutting down in January.) Kenney also said an app is in development.

Comcast is Chicago’s largest cable provider by far covering all points of the city proper and most suburbs while RCN serves the lakefront areas stretching from Rogers Park to Hyde Park. WOW serves mostly Chicago’s South Side.

Also yet to strike a deal is satellite provider Dish, who is currently in an impasse with other regional sports networks including NBC Sports Chicago, Sinclair’s Fox Sports Net, and Colorado’s Altitude, who recently struck a deal with DirecTV to return to the airwaves. Any deal with Marquee would be tied to Sinclair’s other RSNs. But with Dish reporting a surge in customers in the third quarter, it gives them some more leverage against both Sinclair, Altitude, and NBC Sports Chicago, at least for the moment.

Earlier, Mediacom struck a new carriage deal with NBC Sports Chicago.

In other Marquee news, the channel this week named MLB Network’s Michael Santini as their senior vice president of programming and production. 

Marquee plans to carry up to 150 regular-season games for 2020 and beyond, and is the exclusive home to Chicago Cubs baseball. Marquee has also added its first non-baseball sport – if you can call it that. In a deal including all of Sinclair’s RSNs, the channels plan to begin carrying the company’s Ring Of Honor Wrestling, starting Friday (beginning in February for Marquee.)

Marquee Network sizzle reel:

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