One day after Marquee Network announced they’d secured a carriage deal with WOW!, the fourth largest broadband provider in the Chicagoland area, YouTube TV countered with bad news for fans who were hoping they’d be able to watch the Cubs there in 2020:
We purchase rights from Sinclair to distribute content to you. Despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair. As a result, we will no longer offer FOX Regional Sports Networks, including YES Network, beginning February 29th.— YouTube TV (@YouTubeTV) February 27, 2020
While the Marquee Network isn’t named in this tweet, it stands to reason that it is one of the dozens of Regional Sports Networks referred to above.
According to reporting from The Verge, Sinclair responded with this statement:
“We offered YouTube TV the best terms under which their competitors carry our regional sports networks,” a spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, they alone decided to drop these channels citing ‘rising costs’ despite our offer to actually lower the fees they pay us. We also offered to continue negotiating under a short-term extension so that their subscribers could continue to watch their favorite hometown teams. They’ve not yet responded to this offer. Given the ease with which YouTube TV subscribers can drop the service and switch providers, we are surprised that they’ve chosen this course.”
Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney tried to put a brave face on this on 670 the Score, as Al reported yesterday, but it’s not encouraging that YouTube TV dropped Sinclair’s RSNs despite lower fees. Here is Kenney on the YouTube TV situation in a Phil Rosenthal article in the Chicago Tribune:
“It’s hard to predict what they’re going to do,” Kenney told Cubs radio flagship WSCR-AM 670’s Mike Mulligan and David Haugh. “Obviously Alphabet is the owner there and does have some different views on the way they’re going to approach the market.
“I would say if you can leave aside for a second the whole question of Marquee, just in general, the video marketplace is undergoing a lot of change. I would put YouTube in the camp of more of an unknown than some of the others.”
Here’s another interesting note from Rosenthal’s article:
The other side of that equation, however, is the Cubs and Marquee are counting on the cash. A Bloomberg report Thursday said Marquee’s Cubs TV rights deal is valued at about $132 million per season, more than twice what the team scored under its previous TV arrangements.
This is the first time we’ve seen an actual dollar figure noted for what the Cubs will take in via Marquee. But:
But that math works for Marquee only if the new channel gets the carriage deals it expects, so that it sees the steady flow of cash those agreements yield and an optimal audience to deliver to advertisers.
Kenney also stated in Rosenthal’s article that they plan to eventually have as many as 80 carriers for Marquee, up from 40 at the present time.
So is this posturing on YouTube TV’s part, just trying to get a better deal? Other providers have done this in the past with various TV channels, only to eventually come to an agreement. Right now that’s impossible to tell, but for what it’s worth, YES, the New York Yankees TV channel, is urging fans to take their business to different providers:
Despite Kenney’s optimism, Cubs fans might want to heed YES Network’s advice.