Comcast, Marquee reach deal to carry new sports network

Part of larger deal involving Sinclair Broadcast Group.

If you are a Cubs fan, and a Comcast subscriber, you might want to send the peeps at Sinclair Broadcasting Group a thank you card.

Yeah, yeah I know.

In a deal announced literally hours before the first pitch Friday night at Wrigley Field against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs’ new Marquee Sports Network struck a deal with Comcast to carry the channel, available immediately to customers. It can be found on channel 202 (for Comcast analog subscribers – yes, they still exist – I was one until 2017 – it’s available on channel 84.) Marquee is joint partnership with the Cubs and Sinclair Broadcasting, known basically for its right-leaning local newscasts and airing gems like this one.

Cubs’ President of Business Operations Crane Kenney was ecstatic Friday morning. “We finished our negotiations with Comcast to carry Marquee and it will be available in all Xfinity homes,” he said to the Chicago Tribune.

Marquee general manager Mike McCarthy was also happy and grateful: “This agreement is monumental for us and the multitude of Chicagoans who can now watch live Cubs games on a network as dedicated to the team as they are. “We are proud that thanks to an undying commitment from the Cubs, Sinclair and Comcast to get this deal done, fans in and around Chicago can tune in when the team opens the season against the Brewers [Friday night].”

Clark The Cub now can take up residence at Comcast.

The Major League Baseball season finally kicked off Thursday night after a nearly four-month wait due to the coronavirus pandemic. Comcast and Sinclair were actually making progress on a long-awaited deal until Covid-19 stopped everything in their tracks. It forced the delay of the MLB season, not to mention shutting down in-progress NBA and NHL seasons.

Marquee had struck deals with almost every other provider, including WOW, RCN, AT&T (includes DirecTV), Hulu Live + TV, Mediacom, and smaller cable operators. Google’s YouTubeTV and Dish appear to be the two major holdouts, as they dropped numerous regional sports networks over the last year, including NBC Sports Chicago and the Fox RSNs, now owned by Sinclair. Comcast (marketed as Xfinity) is the Chicago area’s largest cable/satellite operator with over one million customers.

This deal is part of a larger one struck by Sinclair and Comcast, renewing carriage agreements in a multi-year deals. It include 78 television stations owned or operated by Sinclair in 51 markets (including three downstate Illinois markets), eighteen Fox-branded RSNs, the Tennis Channel, and the YES Network.

In unrelated news, AT&T’s streaming services struck a deal to carry six RSNs: NESN, MASN, Root Sports Northwest, and the three AT&T-branded sports channels. All carry baseball.

There are some concerns about the cost of cable TV subscriptions going up in the Chicago area as illustrated here.

But keep in mind the Cubs are the city’s most popular sports team not named the Bears, with a loyal following selling out Wrigley Field and fans tuning into games in large numbers even in years when the team wasn’t good (and there were a lot of those years.) The Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory – the first in 108 years – only sent the team’s value skyrocketing higher. While Chicagoans complain about rising costs for everything (especially taxes and city fees), this is one price increase Cub fans will be more than happy to pay – and even non-Cub and non-sports fans understand.

(Updated at 11:59 p.m. – added video link to article.)


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