Marquee & Cubs: What’s Taking Comcast So Long?

7 comments

Q. I read your story saying that you think Comcast will add the new Cubs channel by opening day. So what is the holdup? Why doesn’t Comcast do it already? — Mitch, Evanston, Illinois. 

Mitch, as you know, the new Marquee Sports Network, which will be the exclusive TV home for the Chicago Cubs, launches on February 22, 2020 with the Cubs playing the Oakland Athletics in a spring training contest.

Marquee will be a regional sports network, meaning the Cubs broadcasts will only be available in the team’s broadcast market which includes Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. Thus far, DIRECTV, U-verse, AT&T TV Now, Mediacom and Charter have agreed to carry it.

But not Comcast, the largest pay TV provider in the Chicago market.

A few weeks ago, I did predict that Comcast will add Marquee prior to opening day. But I think there are three reasons why the cable operator and Marquee’s owners (Sinclair Broadcasting and the Cubs) have not signed a deal yet.

1. The pressure is on Marquee, not Comcast. 
At the annual team fanfest held last month, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was booed by fans when he brought up Marquee during a speech. There’s a clear sentiment in Chicago that Sinclair and the Cubs are being greedy for starting the new channel rather than continue having the games on channels that are more accessible such as WGN and NBC Sports Chicago. Consequently, there’s more pressure on Marquee than Comcast in this negotiation. This allows Comcast to sit back and wait for an offer that works for them.

2. Comcast is not worried about losing video subscribers. 
That may sound crazy, but Comcast, like other major cable TV operators, are generating huge profits by expanding their Internet services, which are in increasingly high demand because of the growing popularity of streaming. While Comcast wants to attract, and keep, as many video subscribers as possible, it’s no longer the priority it once was and therefore the cable operator is not worried if some subs leave because it doesn’t carry Marquee. This also gives Comcast more leverage in the negotiation with Marquee.

3. The Cubs are not helping their own cause. 
Throughout the off-season, there have been reports that the Cubs might trade Kris Bryant, or a few other star players, in an effort to trim payroll and/or change team chemistry. Although there has yet to be a major trade, the Cubs continue to act like a team that doesn’t have high hopes for 2020. This vibe has undoubtedly tempered fan enthusiasm for the team, which also undoubtedly has helped Comcast remain firm in its stance. If the city was amped up for another World Series, there would be greater pressure on the cable operator to add Marquee. But that’s not the case, and it’s the Cubs’ fault. The team’s executives picked a bad time to project uncertainty for the upcoming season.

Add it up and Comcast is in the catbird’s seat, as former Brooklyn Dodgers announcer Red Barber used to say.

So while I think Comcast and Marquee will make a deal, I also think the latter will have to bend a bit before it happens.

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7 comments on “Marquee & Cubs: What’s Taking Comcast So Long?”

  1. I’m just glad I don’t have Comcast and I have DirecTV so I can at least get Marquee Sports Network. I hope a channel number for DirecTV carry the network is announced soon so I can know which channel number it’s on.

  2. I for one am glad Comcast is standing firm. I get tired of my rates rising. If Comcast just paid whatever they wanted for the Marquee Sports Network we would pay for it. You may be willing to pay more for it but forcing others to pay is not fair. To put in other terms some would be willing to pay more for Comcast to carry Fox News and others would be willing to pay more for CNN. Fox News fans would not be happy to pay a few more dollars for CNN and vice versa for CNN viewers. I am all for having the Marquee Sports Network but not a price that will dramatically raise my bill.

  3. I’ve been a Comcast customer since day 1 and am tired of the price going up. Now they want you to pay EXTRA for Starz instead of including it in the package (I was already paying for it). And the Billionaire Cub owners want me to pay for their little adventure into TV network ownership. I’m a SOX fan and although I’m not a Cub hater I feel that forcing me to pay extra for another channel I won’t watch is major league BS.

  4. Some of these points are so wrong and don’t make sense; it’s not even funny.

    1. The pressure is on Marquee, not Comcast.
    Ummm, flat out no, this is definitely on Comcast as they are the ones holding a grudge on the Cubs for leaving THEIR NBC Sports channel for their own.
    Cubs have talked about having their own network for years and are finally doing it.
    Comcast right now is acting like a 1st grader throwing a temper tantrum. “They dropped our NBC Sports channel we own, so we aren’t going to carry them.” That’s what it looks like to me. The longer they delay getting the channel, the worse Comcast will look.

    Comcast has done it before, too, acting childish on sports networks. Everybody should look back to the Yankee’s and their YES network.
    After the 2015 season, Comcast up and drops the YES network. They didn’t carry it for a whole year, causing a LOT of PO’d Yankee fans to miss most of the following season (if they stuck with Comcast). They only returned the YES on March 31st, 2017.

    The fact they will just up and drop a team’s sports channel like that is a stupid move that came back to bite them.
    They probably saw A LOT of people canceling their subscriptions during that year, which forced them to bring it back.

    Their competitors were like, “Come and join us. We will have your games,” and people did.

    I see the same thing with Comcast and the Cubs. Comcast is bitter at the Cubs for leaving them, so are dragging this out as long as possible.
    I could see Comcast ignoring the Marquee Network during the spring training, but Comcast will probably eventually give in by the time the regular season starts.

    2. Comcast is not worried about losing video subscribers.
    Comcast should be very worried. Cubs fans are one of the most dedicated out there.
    In the wide range where the Marquee Network would be, I guesstimate they have anywhere between 500,000 to 2,000,000 Comcast subscribers (I give a low to high range as an estimation, as I don’t know the exact number), and probably between 500K to 1 million watch the Cubs (again, I might be high or low-balling these numbers).

    If they estimate the average cost for the bill will be around $130 to $150 (again, I might too low on this when not factoring in cable boxes and other fees), multiply that cost by 7 (months from March to September, since the playoffs, are on other channels). That’s about $910 to $1,050 for each person during those 7 months.

    Multiply those 7-month numbers by the number of people above.
    If 500,000 people at $130 (per month)/ $910 during the regular season – $455,000,000 (estimate total cost during 7 months)
    If 500,000 people at $150 (per month)/$1,050 during the regular season – $525,000,000 estimate total cost during 7 months)

    If 1,000,000 people at $910 during the regular season (7 months) – $910,000,000 (estimate total cost during 7 months)
    If 1,000,000 people at $1050 during the regular season (7 months) – $1,050,000,000 (estimate total cost during 7 months)

    I know these numbers aren’t PERFECT, but it’s just used for estimation purposes as the numbers will greatly fluctuate from person to person.
    Looking at those numbers, this is NOT an “insignificant” loss that Comcast could have. Having $100’s of millions of potential profits lost during the 7 months would damage their profits in multiple quarters, all because they were too childish to pick up the Marquee network because Comcast left their NBC Sports channel for their own network.

    3. The Cubs are not helping their own cause.
    This part has nothing to do with the channel and just seems like another reason to bring up the Kris Bryant trade rumor that’s brought up every year.
    While I agree the Cubs should have done this soon (back for the 2017 season after winning the World Series in 2016), I can still see why they want their own channel, but Comcast is getting in the way of that will PO a lot of people.
    And this writer greatly underestimates the loyalty of Cubs fans when they mention “fan enthusiasm”.

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