TV Answer Man, we love the Cubs and watch all their games on Marquee Sports on our cable system. Do you think Marquee will ever allow us to subscribe directly to it without having to get a cable TV subscription? If so, when do you see this happening? — Claire, Evanston, Illinois.
Claire, as you know, the Marquee Sports Network is the TV home of the Chicago Cubs, broadcasting roughly 150 Cubbie games in the Chicago market. The channel is carried by several pay TV operators including DIRECTV, DIRECTV Stream, Comcast and FuboTV.
But will you ever be able to subscribe to Marquee without also getting a subscription to one of those pay TV operators?
The answer is very likely, and it could happen as soon as next year.
Marquee, which is jointly owned by the Cubs and the Sinclair Broadcast Group, has been hinting for a year that it might launch a separate ‘direct-to-consumer’ plan. In fact, the New York Post reported last February that the Cubs were in negotiations with Sinclair to launch a streaming service that would permit cord-cutters to watch the team’s games without a traditional pay TV subscription.
Asked then about that possibility, Marquee Sports General Manager Michael McCarthy didn’t deny the report, saying the channel was “always exploring options.”
And last week, Sports Business Journal reported that the Cubs are “actively exploring ways to move forward” and that a cord-cutter service “could be available as soon as the 2023 season.” The only question seems to be is whether the Cubs will partner with its current financial partner, Sinclair, or another streaming service. (Sinclair is planning next month to launch a cord-cutter app for its Bally Sports channels.)
“Who do we and Sinclair choose as our partner? Is it Major League Baseball? Sinclair’s in negotiations with the league, so maybe,” Cubs President Crane Kenney told SBJ. “Is it ESPN? Maybe. Is it my friends at NBC, who have Peacock? Maybe that’s where you go. Maybe it’s none of them. Maybe we do it ourselves.”
Asked about a DTC (direct-to-consumer) service, McCarthy told the publication: “I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if anything significant changes. But it appears that the Cubs are determined to reach the growing audience of cord-cutters sooner than later.
Claire, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann