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Some further thoughts on the Marquee Network and Comcast/Xfinity

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We are 17 days until Opening Day.

Marquee Network

The 2020 MLB season begins two weeks from Thursday. The Cubs will be taking on the Brewers in Milwaukee.

The question: Will Comcast/Xfinity subscribers in the Cubs market territory be able to see the game?

My answer to that continues to be “Yes.” I believe Comcast and the Marquee Sports Network will make a deal prior to Opening Day, even if it takes until that very morning (the game is at 1:10 p.m. CT). This negotiation is not dissimilar to many such negotiations between channels and providers, where you hear nothing until suddenly, “Oh, yes, we have a deal.”

Comcast spokesman Jack Segal told me this morning, “We’re still in discussions,” and again, that’s the way these things normally go.

I have also learned that there have been reports that as many as half the calls fielded by Comcast customer service representatives in recent days have been about the Marquee Network. If you’re one of those who has been calling (or reaching out to Comcast/Xfinity on social media) I would encourage you to keep doing so. The volume of these calls/social media posts does get reported to upper management at Comcast. It might make a difference.

UPDATE: A Comcast spokesman told me that the reports I heard about this are not correct.

I also wanted to report something to you today regarding YouTube TV and the deal they recently made with 19 of the Fox regional sports networks now owned by Sinclair. While YTTV is now carrying those networks, the coverage area for many of them appears to have shrunk, limited only to the main metropolitan area where teams are located and not the full market territory:

It’s notable that this doesn’t appear to be about out-of-market channels, but rather limiting the distribution of certain channels to only certain parts of their market. So out-of-market streaming packages like MLB.tv won’t solve the problem for those affected, especially given baseball’s particularly restrictive local blackouts.

At this point in time, the main option to get these channels appears to be switching to another provider.

Check out the tweets embedded in the Awful Announcing article above the quote for some examples. This likely means that even if YTTV does make a deal with Marquee, the network would then probably only be seen by YTTV subscribers in the Chicago metro area and not in the rest of the Cubs market area in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

It’s interesting to see YouTube TV doing this. On one hand, there are presumably some cost savings for them, especially if they’re not offering a discount to those who used to get certain RSNs and now don’t. And it seems better for them to have even a limited deal for 19 of the 22 RSNs in question (19 of the 21 Fox-branded RSNs and then YES) than to have no deal, especially considering the heavy focus they’ve placed on sports in advertisements for the service (and in sponsorship deals from MLB games to the NBA Finals to the World Series). This lets them say “Yes, we have the RSNs!” But reducing which customers can get those RSNs has led to some customer backlash and provider switching, and they’re still missing those New York and LA RSNs altogether.

Cost savings or no, as the article notes, this has already produced some backlash and the answer for YTTV subscribers is probably going to be “switch providers,” even though, as noted above, YTTV has promoted sports channels in advertising their service.

The bottom line for me — not just as a Cubs fan and writer, but as a Comcast customer — is that I do believe Comcast and Marquee will have a deal in place by Opening Day. Once they do that, Marquee will have about 90-95 percent coverage in the Cubs market territory — and not just in the Chicago metro area, either.

As always, we await developments.

Poll

When will Comcast sign a deal with Marquee?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Before Opening Day
    (356 votes)
  • 26%
    Between Opening Day and the end of April
    (253 votes)
  • 7%
    Between the beginning of May and the All-Star Break
    (77 votes)
  • 3%
    After the All-Star Break but before the end of the 2020 season
    (31 votes)
  • 8%
    After the 2020 season
    (81 votes)
  • 17%
    Never
    (172 votes)
970 votes total Vote Now