The Cubs will open the 2020 regular season three weeks from Thursday against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
As of this morning, a bit more than half of cable subscribers in the Chicago metro area won’t be able to see the game on television on the Marquee Network, because they have Comcast’s Xfinity service. That includes me, a Comcast customer.
Why has Comcast not signed up yet?
The fact that they are the largest single cable provider in the Chicago area is clearly one of the reasons. That gives them some leverage. On the other hand, has Comcast underestimated the loyalty of Cubs fans? How many will switch providers if Comcast doesn’t come to an agreement with Marquee? Some have wondered, including on the Mully and Haugh show on the Score last week, if Comcast hasn’t signed up because they run the major competitor to Marquee as a regional sports network, NBC Sports Chicago, an outlet where Cubs games had been seen for over a decade through last season.
The Cubs say they have offered the same deal to Comcast as they have for the 40+ providers who have already signed up. This seems a perfectly reasonable thing, and this can’t really be modified, because if the Cubs did so, they’d then probably have to renegotiate the deals they’ve already made. I think you can see why that’s not likely to happen.
For their part, Comcast looks at the three weeks and two days remaining as time to continue to talk. Late last week, Comcast spokesman Jack Segal told me, “We’re still in discussions with Marquee. There’s still time before Opening Day.” That would seem to indicate to me that Comcast is looking at that as a deadline of sorts.
That’s often the way things like this work in the TV channel/TV provider way of doing things. You have likely read in the past about channels that might be “pulled” unless a deal is struck, possibly affecting things like NFL games. Generally, these disputes get settled before any games are missed, often at the last minute.
What happened last week with YouTube TV is instructive. Late last week, YTTV said they had failed to reach agreement with Sinclair on a carriage deal, and so they would be pulling Fox’s RSNs off their service at the end of February. The very next day, they backed off of that claim and said they would keep the RSNs on their service while they continued to negotiate. One of the reasons this likely happened was pressure from YTTV customers.
And that’s where you, the Comcast/Xfinity customer, might be able to push the company in the right direction. Call them. Tweet at them (I’ve done that already). Put comments on their Facebook page. Let them know you’re a Cubs fan and you want the games on their service.
They have 23 days. Both parties know how much is at stake. I believe they’ll come to an agreement — even if it takes till just before game time on Opening Day.
Will the Marquee Network be on Comcast/Xfinity systems on Opening Day, March 26?
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