Eight weeks from tomorrow, Saturday, February 22, 2020, the Marquee Sports Network is supposedly going to be carrying the Cubs’ first spring-training game, against the Athletics at Sloan Park, at 2:05 p.m. CT.
And yet, there has been no official announcement of the channel’s launch date and little information on who will be on its air, save for Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies calling games when they happen. Last week, this information surfaced on one possible on-air host:
Chicago media news: hearing NFL Network anchor Cole Wright is expected to be the face of Cubs studio coverage on the new Marquis network. Wright grew up in the Chicago area.— Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport) December 21, 2019
(Hopefully, going forward, people will figure out it’s “Marquee” and not “Marquis”.)
Per Wright’s NFL Network bio, he’s a Chicago-area native and big Cubs fan:
Cole Wright was born in Joliet, Ill. He attended Waubonsie Valley High School outside of Chicago, lettering in baseball and helping to lead the team to the state championship game his senior year. Wright continued his baseball career at the junior college level, playing two seasons at Waubonsee Community College. He eventually graduated from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, earning a B.A. in Communications in 2003. Wright and his wife, Reagan, have a daughter named Paisley. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf, working out, going to the beach with his family, and watching baseball, remaining a passionate fan of his hometown Chicago Cubs.
So that’s good, anyway — hiring someone who’s knowledgeable about the Cubs.
It’s still unclear whether Comcast, the biggest cable provider in the Chicago market, will sign up to cover Marquee, per this Phil Rosenthal column in the Tribune:
There’s always the possibility of stubborn negotiation. But because AT&T’s DirecTV, U-verse or AT&T TV already are on board (along with Charter Communications and Mediacom Communications), it’s a fair bet others — including major streaming services such as YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV — will feel compelled to come to terms at some point.
As has been noted, there’s no rush. Spring training games are of passing interest, and once Marquee launches, every day a carrier doesn’t have the channel is a day it (and its customers) aren’t footing the bill. So don’t be surprised if there’s some posturing and foot-dragging.
That makes some sense; spring-training games are kind of a loss leader for the network, trying to build viewership before the season begins for games that are mostly aired during the afternoon (you can be reasonably certain any afternoon games would be rebroadcast in the evening, to fill time and allow 9-to-5 workers to watch).
Getting Comcast/Xfinity on board for the channel is a must, as that company has more cable subscribers in the Chicago metro area than all the others combined. And as a reminder, if you live outside the Cubs’ market territories in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, the way you see Cubs games won’t change — you’ll see the Marquee Network on MLB Extra Innings or MLB.tv, as you did with the NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-TV or ABC7 Chicago.
Here’s a page on Marquee’s website where you can find the providers currently available in your area (within the Cubs market territory).
Rosenthal’s column notes that the Cubs Convention is coming up in just four weeks, and as the Cubs don’t really have any new player acquisitions to announce (at least not yet, anyway), that would likely be a good opportunity to feature information on the launch of the channel.
The Tribune column also notes what sorts of programming you’ll likely see on the Marquee Network when it’s not carrying live Cubs games:
It will rerun games, including memorable ones from years gone by. There also will be shows featuring current and former Cubs. Bob Sirott, for example, recorded interviews some years back for the franchise with a bunch of old-timers, some of whom have died in the interim.
But don’t be surprised if much of the schedule, particularly outside of baseball season, is filled with programming shared with the other regional sports networks Sinclair recently took over from Fox in a deal with Disney.
For now, though, we’re still in a holding pattern. If and when other cable/satellite deals (and don’t count on Dish Network if you subscribe to them, they have gone on record as saying “the regional sports network model is broken” and have no deal with the new NBC Sports Chicago) are made with Marquee, I’ll post about them here.