Chicago Cubs To Launch New TV Network With Sinclair

Marquee Sports Network will begin in February 2020.

February 13, 2019 - 6:55 am
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- By Bruce Levine

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The Chicago Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Wednesday the launch of a new regional sports network, Marquee Sports Network, that will provide increased access and around-the-clock coverage of the team.

Marquee Sports Network will be the exclusive television home of the Chicago Cubs beginning in 2020.

At that point, the Cubs will no longer have any games carried on WGN-TV or any over-the-air station. WGN has broadcast Cubs game -- for either full or partial schedules -- since 1948.

In addition to live game broadcasts, which will continue to feature broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies, Marquee Sports Network will provide extensive pregame and postgame coverage, unique Cubs content and other local sports programming. Marquee will be a 24-hour all-sports cable station, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said. The network will broadcast every Cubs game that's not committed to the national television carriers -- FOX, ESPN, TBS and MLB Network. Depending on the national broadcast schedule, there figures to be 145 to 150 Cubs games a season on Marquee.

“We are excited to better serve our fans with expanded and exclusive programming showcasing our remarkable players, beloved ballpark and storied past,” Kenney said. “Our dedicated ‘Cubs-centric’ network will carry all available Cubs games and feature uncompromising, in-depth and behind-thescenes coverage.”

Kenney and Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley will serve as the point men on the new network.

“This partnership brings together one of the most iconic sports franchises in the country with one of the largest television broadcasting companies,” commented Sinclair’s President and CEO Chris Ripley. “It is hard to imagine any content that is more unique and valuable than the live sports entertainment the Cubs have been delivering to their fans for more than a century. Sinclair’s strength in production, distribution and local sales will support bringing more content to more viewers, all while leveraging the latest technology.”

Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney spoke with 670 The Score and said,"I think this will be new and innovative, the way we handle our broadcast hours. We will hopefully begin with all of our spring training games being broadcast in 2020 -- at the the very least, all of our home games from Sloan (Park). We don't expect a broadcasting lull since we will broadcast baseball from February right through early November."

The Cubs will likely have a main studio at Gallagher Way, which sits right outside Wrigley Field. The old business office on Clark Street will likely house the main production studios, Kenney said.

Play-by-play man Len Kasper and analyst Jim Deshaies will continue to call Cubs games. The hiring of technical advisors and salespeople will begin soon for the new network.

The Cubs will be paid a rights fee from the venture. The other profits from sales and distribution will be split on a percentage basis.

Sinclair will be in charge of the distribution of Marquee Sports Network and selling it to local carriers. The biggest hurdle is believed to be with Comcast, which owns NBC Sports Chicago, which has its own regional sports partnership with the Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox. Will there be a conflict of interest or any troubles in negotiations? Sinclair owns 190 stations throughout the country, so that may create some leverage.

The Dodgers signed an $8.3-billion, 25-year television deal with Time Warner back in 2013, a venture that has gone well for the team financially, but poorly for consumers because of distribution issues with local cable carriers that have prevented many in the Los Angeles market from getting the games.

Those involved with Marquee don't expect a problem of that sort.

"We are very confident we will get over that hurdle," Ripley said. "At the end of the day, the Dodger situation was very unique for a lot of different reasons -- not the least of which is the power of the franchise. The Cubs and what they mean to Chicago and their fans versus the Dodgers -- not to belittle the Dodgers -- there are just areas of LA (in which) they are not that important. I want to say how excited we are to be partnering with such a storied franchise like the Cubs and be involved in this great city of Chicago." 

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.