We’ve talked about it several times over the past few years and now it looks like the Cubs are finally launching Marquee’s streaming service on a standalone basis. Crane Kenney, the club’s president of business operations, shared that information during a Saturday appearance on 670 The Score.
“To reach our fans that have cut the cord, we’re introducing a streaming service this year,” Kenney announced. “We’re aiming for July, sometime after the All-Star break, to bring a service for those who say I cut the cord, I don’t have Fubo — which we are available on — but I’d like to buy Marquee individually, just the channel, to see Cubs games.”
This hadn’t been a real option in the past due to MLB’s broadcast restrictions, but those have been softened of late with the long-anticipated failure of Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group and Bally RSNs. The league has already taken over Padres broadcasts and made them available via in-market streaming after Bally Sports San Diego went belly-up earlier this season. While the Cubs aren’t directly impacted by the Bally mess, they are still co-owned by Sinclair and are thus subject to the changing landscape of sports consumption.
This has been a problem for the organization since well before Marquee launched because the Cubs have known for years that they were going to miss the RSN boom that saw other teams land hundreds of millions or even billions for their broadcast rights. The failure to negotiate a buyout of their contracts with WGN and NBC Sports Chicago — whatever the reason — surely cost them more than what the new DraftKings Sportsbook will generate.
Alas, the plan now is to ensure their next move is not beset by the same stumbling blocks that prevented Marquee from a smooth launch in 2020. And I’m not talking about COVID, I mean the carriage negotiations the Cubs botched due mainly to hubris and perhaps an overestimation of carriers’ willingness to pay for Marquee.
“We’re taking our time to make sure this thing is exactly right,” Kenney said. “In terms of the quality of the program, the type of program, pricing, marketing, ease of access so it’s available on all devices, whether it’s Roku, a hand-held, etc.”
Though they haven’t announced a price yet, expect Marquee to land somewhere above the $19.99 being charged for the Padres network. The Yankees charge $24.99/month through YES and the Red Sox are at $29.99 through NESN, so I’d think the Cubs will end up in that range.
The Mets are also launching a network, but they’ll inevitably price it too high initially and then it’ll break. Their medical staff will say it’s actually fine and the organization won’t fix things until they finally realize they’ve not been broadcasting games for a week or more.
Bringing it back to Marquee, I just hope this new service, or expansion of the existing service, is better than what they’ve got now. Marquee’s streaming app is slow, it’s clunky to navigate, and it just doesn’t work very well on the whole. I have to assume that waiting until late July to launch means they’re working through some of those bugs.