New Multi-year deal keeps some games on local over-the-air TV and also includes streaming
There was no doubt the Chicago Sky’s first-ever WNBA Championship would send the value of their media rights soaring, by achieving something no other pro Chicago team (with the possible exception of the White Sox) is in the position to do for the foreseeable future.
The reward came Monday, as Marquee Sports Network – a joint venture between the Chicago Cubs and Sinclair Broadcasting Group, struck a multi-year deal to carry up to sixteen Chicago Sky games starting with the season-opener Friday against the Los Angeles Sparks. The deal covers all games not carried by ABC/ESPN, who’ll get six exclusive contests this season.
Even though Marquee acquired the rights, they’re not producing the games – the Sky will continue to do so instead and have Lisa Byington and Jason Ross Jr. as play-by-play and analysts Stephen Brado and Meagan McKeown on their broadcast team on a rotating basis.
“On behalf of the Chicago Cubs organization, I’m so honored to announce this broadcast partnership with the WNBA Champion Chicago Sky,” said Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts. “We’re looking forward to a great partnership between the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Sky and Marquee and wish the Sky the best of luck this season!”
The Cubs are owned by the Ricketts family, and they also own Marquee with Sinclair operating the regional sports network.
Marquee will also stream Sky games they have rights to on their Marquee app under the Marquee Plus banner, available to those who subscribe to Marquee using their cable or satellite credentials. Some Marquee Plus games will also be available on Weigel Broadcasting’s two local stations (CW 26 and The U) as they had been the team’s previous sole rightsholder.
“This partnership with Marquee elevates the Chicago Sky fan experience in a way that has never been done before,” said Sky President and CEO Adam Fox. “Women’s basketball, particularly the Chicago Sky, is increasingly gaining attention and affinity, and Marquee’s commitment to women’s professional sports made this an easy partnership. With Marquee, as well as our continued relationship with WCIU-TV, fans will never miss a moment of the Sky’s title defense.”
With the Sky deal, Marquee is broadening its programming scope beyond the Cubs. Marquee also carries selected ACC football and basketball games during the off-season, and also has a partnership with the Chicago Bears for a studio show and condensed game rebroadcasts. Marquee also recently signed WGN Radio’s Bob Sirott to a talent deal to host Icons Of The Ivy featuring Cubs greats he interviewed a decade ago for the team and sports-roundtable show The Reporters, which launched two days ago (The Reporters was also the name of a short-lived Fox newsmagazine show in 1987.)
Ironically, Marquee was the only local outlet NOT to carry the Sky’s championship parade last October. If they repeat this year, you can bet they’ll be front and center with coverage.