The Media Notepad: Cubs, Marquee to launch direct-to-consumer service

Also: NBC Sports Chicago plans extensive NHL Draft coverage; Magnum P.I. canceled a second time; Paramount Plus guts lineup as sale rumors of the studio swirl 

Soon, they’ll be some relief for Cubs fans who are shut out of watching their games if they don’t subscribe to a cable or satellite provider or Fubo.

As first reported by the Sun-Times on Saturday, the team is planning to launch a direct-to-consumer service for Marquee Sports Network sometime next month, perhaps after the All-Star break. Marquee is a joint venture of the Chicago Cubs and Sinclair, the broadcaster who also owns the bankrupt Diamond Sports Group, who runs the Bally Sports Nets (Marquee is not a part of Diamond, and thus not affected by the bankruptcy proceedings.)

“To reach our fans that have cut the cord, we’re introducing a streaming service this year,” Kenney said on 670 The Score Saturday morning. “We’re aiming for July, sometime after the All-Star break, to bring a service for those who say I cut the cord, I don’t have Fubo — which we are available on — but I’d like to buy Marquee individually, just the channel, to see Cubs games.”

No word on pricing as of yet, but monthly and yearly options are expected to be sold to consumers. And those who buy won’t have blackouts in any region and available to stream on all devices. 

This couldn’t have come at a better time for both Marquee and Cubs fans as the team has won eleven out of their last fourteen games and could become a factor in the pennant race should they continue to play well through the season. Ratings for Cubs games on Marquee have been lackluster since its 2020 launch, as the team has missed the playoffs four out of the last five years, and that appearance came in the 2020 Covid season in a tournament format. 

The Cubs join the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and more recently the San Diego Padres (through MLB) as teams who are offering games thru the direct-to-consumer route. 

NBC Sports Chicago is rolling out the red carpet and sparing no expense in their coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks’ first round draft pick Wednesday night, even bringing back a familiar name for their coverage. 

As you know, the Blackhawks won the draft lottery last month and is expected to land hot prospect Connor Bedard as they continue to rebuild their team – and their reputation after years of decline. His arrival is expected to bring fans back to the United Center in droves and should send TV ratings upward for NBC Sports Chicago.

On Wednesday, the regional sports network is providing extensive coverage of the draft, starting with Blackhawks Draft Night Live airing at 6:30 p.m. not only on NBC Sports Chicago, but NBC 5’s streaming news channel as well (both are part of NBCUniversal/Comcast.) Hosted by Pat Boyle, the one-hour special plans to have analysis from current play-by-play man Chris Vosters; new Blackhawks analyst Darren Pang; former Blackhawks players Denis Savard, Adam Burrish, and others; and now-retired play-by-play Blackhawks voice Pat Foley. 

The next night, NBC Sports Chicago is airing another one hour special after the White Sox-Angels game – Blackhawks Draft Recap, hosted by Boyle and analysis from Caley Chelios, starting around 6 p.m. or so. On Friday at 5 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago is airing the team’s first official press conference live in Blackhawks Class of ’23, where Bedard is expected to address the media. 

Both are also airing on NBC 5’s streaming news channel. 

The 2023 NHL Draft is taking place at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Wednesday night with the first round taking place that night and rounds two through seven taking place the following night, all airing on ESPN, NHL Network, and streaming on ESPN Plus.

The troubled Paramount Plus streaming service underwent a housecleaning last week as it canceled four shows, jettisoning Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies, Queen Of The Universe, the animated Star Trek: Prodigy, and the third revival of The Game

In addition, all four series are being removed from the streaming service by the end of this month to take advantage of tax write-offs and to save on residuals- a tactic increasingly being used by studios. 

The move comes as the studio’s future is increasingly in doubt. A few Wall Street analysts suggested the company be broken up and sold in parts, as Paramount Plus is trailing other major streamers in subscriber count as media companies are more focused on streaming. But this could be easier said than done. 

For one, Paramount would have difficulty selling off CBS and its large station group as it covers more than 25 percent of the country due to its presence in the largest markets (eight out of the top ten) including CBS 2 in Chicago. The top three markets alone account for 15 percent of the country and with the ownership cap at 39 percent – and not budging up anytime soon, this would eliminate heavy hitters such as Nexstar and Sinclair- both are already near the cap. 

Despite CBS being the top network among viewers and the smashing success of last year’s Top Gun: Maverick, its not enough to impress investors as the parent company’s stock price dropped 42 percent in the past year. Formerly known as ViacomCBS, the two reunited in 2019 after fourteen years apart when they both split. Viacom purchased CBS in 1999, 28 years after the network to spin-off the syndication company (known as CBS Enterprises) to comply with the then-new financial interest and syndication rules. 

Going to be no savior this time unless ABC or Fox gets involved – NBC announced it is not ordering anymore new episodes of Magnum, P.I., a reboot of the 1980s procedural canceled by CBS last year after four seasons. 

Produced by Universal Television – who is the parent company of NBC’s owner Comcast Corp., the network ordered twenty episodes and decided to split “season five” into dual ten-episodes season. When the series returns next season – its airdate hasn’t been determined – it will be marketed as “The Final Chapter”. According to Deadline, the cast’s options – once again like last year – were due June 30, but with an ongoing writer’s strike and a potential actor’s strike set to start Saturday if a deal wasn’t reached, NBC couldn’t make the commitment happen under these circumstances. 

The show aired Sunday nights this past spring and winter and did OK, drawing a little over three million viewers on average. Current season five episodes are available on Peacock, but episodes from the first four seasons have been pulled from Paramount Plus even though CBS Media Ventures (who share Paramount Global as a parent company) handles domestic off-network sales as the new Magnum was being offered to local stations as weekend offerings this past season. 

But that’s also coming to an end as CBS Media Ventures has reportedly elected to replace it in syndication this September with off-network episodes of the Queen Latifah version of The Equalizer, another 1980s procedural reboot as the syndicated Magnum has drawn around a 0.7 Nielsen household rating this season. The other off-network hour made available to local stations from CBS (SEAL Team) is remaining in syndication. The NBC cancellation leaves Magnum with a 96-episode package to sell to cable networks, ad-supported streamers, and/or Ion once it wraps up its run. 


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