New RSN drops details; Xfinity still not on board
The Cubs and Marquee Sports Network finally (finally!) unveiled details about the new network to fans Saturday at the annual Cubs Convention in downtown Chicago.
Programming on the channel consists of the obvious fare you would find on similar regional sports network channels: Cubs pre-game and post game shows and Cubs “All-Access” programming. There are also plans to air classic Cub games; live and condensed games with minor-league teams affiliated with the Cubs; and documentaries featuring Cubs greats, among others.
Marquee is also tapping programming from co-parent Sinclair Broadcasting, including Ring Of Honor Wrestling and others from the Fox regional sports networks, including college sports and soccer. Sinclair, who is a partner in the Marquee venture with the Cubs, bought Fox’s RSNs for $10 billion last summer.
On-air talent was also announced: The NFL Network’s Cole Wright was named studio host for the pre and post game programming, and Taylor McGregor was named field reporter. McGregor had a similar role with the Colorado Rockies telecasts on AT&T SportsNet and during ESPN College Football telecasts. Returning to call the games of course, are Len Kasper and Jim DeShies.
Other names announced were Ryan Dempster, Mark DeRosa, Doug Glanville, Jason Hammel, Chris Myers, Carlos Pena, Dan Pleseac, Lou Pinella, and Rick Sutcliffe – allcould do studio work or be added as a third analyst. Myers could also fill-in for Kasper and Wright from time-to-time.
One fan in the audience at the session noted Kelly Crull, who was the on-field reporter for Cubs games when the team was on NBC Sports Chicago, wasn’t announced and a few in the crowd noted there was only one female named in the entire announcement.
Fans were also updated on where things stood when it came to who would get the network at launch when it officially debuts on February 22. Aside from Mediacom, Charter, and AT&T (who signed a deal last fall), the list unveiled was basically a hodge-podge of smaller cable companies though RCN was at the top of the list, serving neighborhoods on Chicago’s lakefront stretching from Rogers Park to the South Loop, including downtown, River North, and the Gold Coast. RCN also serves north suburban Lincolnwood and Skokie.
No Comcast, but these carriers have deals to carry new #Cubs channel #Marquee. (Sorry angle is tight. That’s where media people are stashed, off to the side.) pic.twitter.com/DmfNlNfrLL
— Phil Rosenthal (@phil_rosenthal) January 18, 2020
Notably missing was Comcast’s Xfinity, who is the Chicago-area’s largest cable provider estimated at 1.5 million homes throughout the ten-county DMA. Also missing was Wide Open West, who mainly serves neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side (in addition to Xfinity.) At the con, the team urged fans to ante up the pressure on Xfinity to add the channel. Of note is Marquee didn’t do the same with Dish, figuring getting on their system is now a lost cause as the satellite provider is drawing the line on RSNs because they’re too expensive.
Cubs announce they have carriage deals for 22 more providers to carry @WatchMarquee, now including RCN. Still working on Comcast, though, which is about half the market. To that end, the Cubs showed a phone number. pic.twitter.com/UlwtqlldGD
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) January 18, 2020
Marquee officials said they are currently working on deals with Xfinity and other providers including streaming services.
The unveiling of Marquee went a whole lot smoother Saturday as the mere mention of the name Friday by Cubs co-owner Tom Ricketts was booed on stage. “You guys won’t be booing about the Marquee Network in one year”, he told the crowd, who were already agitated by a lack of off-season moves (as opposed to the cross-town rival Chicago White Sox.)
The move to Marquee this year marks the first time in the modern media era the vast majority of Cubs games won’t be on over-the-air broadcast TV. Even though we now have more information, the rollout could have been handled a whole lot better, with not letting Tom Ricketts appear anywhere near an audience full of people for starters.