The Cubs’ new Marquee Sports Network is slowly getting ramped up for carriage across the Midwest. Last month I reported the network had a deal with AT&T systems (which includes DIRECTV and U-verse) and Wednesday, the team and the network announced by press release deals for carriage by systems run by Mediacom in various parts of Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.
Mike McCarthy, general manager of Marquee Network, said in that release: “Being able to provide Cubs fans with access to Marquee Sports Network through Mediacom is incredible. As we near the launch of the network, we look forward to giving fans the in-depth Cubs content they want and deserve through multiple providers.”
I know that quite a number of BCB readers who subscribe to Mediacom in Iowa had missed many previous Cubs games because Mediacom didn’t carry NBC Sports Chicago. Now, Mediacom subscribers will receive the entire Marquee Network package. The release also notes that the network had previously come to an agreement for carriage on systems run by Charter Communications.
There’s a lot more about the network in this very informative article in The Athletic by Patrick Mooney.
First, if you had any doubts about Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies continuing as Cubs TV broadcasters, put those to rest:
Marquee is still in the process of finalizing deals with Kasper and Deshaies, two smart, low-maintenance broadcasters who diligently prepare, maintain good relationships in the clubhouse, treat behind-the-scenes people well and never embarrass the organization with tone-deaf commentary about modern players and the modern game.
McCarthy echoed what Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said when the team announced the Sinclair partnership in February, emphasizing there is “no doubt” that Kasper and Deshaies will be in the Wrigley Field broadcast booth next year.
“They are coming back, for sure,” McCarthy said. “They are going to be the play-by-play and color guy here. And everything else we’re talking about is enhancing that reality.”
Mooney is 100 percent correct in his detailed description of Len and JD as broadcasters. That’s exactly how they operate, and we are lucky to have them. They’re two of the best in the business. Len Kasper has occasionally stopped by here at BCB to answer your questions and I hope to be able to have more Q-and-A sessions with him in the future.
The rest of the article is worth reading, too, as it gives more details on how the network will be staffed and what kind of programming they will be running. McCarthy recently made a hire to run programming and production:
McCarthy has lured Mike Santini away from MLB Network to be Marquee’s head of programming and production, part of a hiring spree that is expected to include more than 60 employees plus a large freelance crew. Marquee will launch in 2020 with a broadcast of the Cubs’ first spring training game on Feb. 22.
I’m sure you concur with me that MLB Network does excellent work on their studio shows, live games and features. Having someone who’s done that for a national network ought to help the Marquee Network get off the ground running next February.
One thing the network will need, of course, is clearance on cable and satellite systems in the Cubs market territory. The Mediacom and Charter Communications deals boost Marquee’s footprint and Mooney wrote this about other potential carriage deals:
An industry source said there is momentum toward a Marquee deal with YouTube TV, which has been a presenting sponsor of the 2018 and 2019 World Series and a streaming partner for Major League Baseball. A Cubs spokesman declined to comment on the state of ongoing negotiations with any distributor. McCarthy also declined to comment on Marquee’s progress with Comcast, the region’s dominant cable provider, a former partner with the Cubs and the parent company of NBC Sports Chicago, a direct competitor.
As noted, Comcast/Xfinity is this area’s “dominant cable provider.” Presuming the Marquee Network can make a deal with them, that would go a long way toward getting them 100 percent in-market coverage. If you live outside the Cubs market territory and subscribe to MLB.tv or MLB Extra Innings, you will continue to watch Cubs games the way you have previously, either via your computer/mobile device or via your local cable/satellite system.
I was also very pleased to read this in Mooney’s article regarding a Marquee Network hire:
It has also hired Bob Vorwald, WGN’s longtime director of production, as a consultant to help sort through the team’s video archives. Vorwald, a link to the days of Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray, has a ton of institutional knowledge. The channel also has the services of Cubs Productions, the team’s Emmy Award-winning in-house video team.
Bob Vorwald has been WGN’s director of production for more than 20 years and his institutional memory will be critical to the Marquee Network providing a seamless transition from WGN/NBC Sports Chicago/ABC7 telecasts. Bob has also helped me out quite a number of times with posts I’ve made here about WGN-TV’s Cubs broadcasts and recently sent me a treasure trove of photos of WGN’s Cubs history, many of which I used in my recent five-part series honoring WGN-TV’s Cubs telecasts.
It sounds like the folks behind the Marquee Network are doing everything it takes to put on top-notch broadcasts, as well as celebrate the long TV history of the team. I’ll continue to update you when the network and the team announce further carriage deals.