The Chicago Cubs have been synonymous with WGN for decades. Entire generations of people, spread throughout the United States, grew up catching the final innings of Cubs games on the channel after rushing home from school. Or when they were teenagers, setting an alarm for 1:20pm on summer days to make sure they were out of bed in time to watch the Cubbies.
Those are bygone days. In truth, the majority of Cubs games haven’t been on WGN for years, and no games have been on WGN America – the channel that those outside the Chicago area get on their cable providers – for several seasons. Over the last 20 years alone, there has been Fox Sports Chicago, Comcast Sports Net Chicago, NBC Sports Chicago, ABC 7, and others who have carried Cubs games.
Beginning this season, the Cubs will have one television home again. Marquee Sports Network launched on Saturday ahead of the first spring training game, an uncharacteristically rain-soaked evening affair in Mesa, Arizona against the Oakland A’s.
But fans have been, by and large, unhappy with the transition away from the old system of splitting the broadcast schedule between a handful of TV stations. Team owner Tom Ricketts was booed loudly at the Cubs Convention in January when he mentioned the new network – although if you ask him, he’ll be quick to point out that the fans were booing the new network, not him.
If the convention were held today, they might only be a few less boos. Here is what the fans are saying about the roll-out of the Marquee Sports Network.
First, let’s focus on the things that people liked. The Cubs seem to be hitting the nail on the head in regards to the kind of content fans want to see. This was first evident with the heavy push toward new content on their YouTube channel in 2019, which now has over 147,000 subscribers. First up on Marquee? A re-run from April, 2016.
The Cubs have been clear that Marquee Sports will run classic Cubs games, features on players — current, as well as the legends of yesteryear — and other filler when the games aren’t on. But specifically regarding the broadcast, fans appeared to be impressed with the presentation.
And for many who reside inside the Cubs broadcast territory but outside the Chicago area, having Marquee is a welcome change. In recent years, some of the channels that carried Cubs games weren’t broadcast in the entire region.
But not everybody has had a positive experience thus far. Only some of the major cable providers in the country have cut a deal with Marquee, which has left a large segment of fans on the outside. One such cable provider happens to be Comcast, which has the second-most subscribers in the country.
While some have aired their grievances with the Cubs for not having a deal done with Comcast — hence the booing at the convention — others have attempted to be the voice of reason, pointing out that it takes two sides to make it happen.
But if you have DirecTV, you’re in luck … in theory. Some fans were able to watch when the channel launched, while others were stuck on the phone with customer service.
Hulu Live TV is among the companies that have an agreement with Marquee, which is great news for cord-cutters. Unless, of course, you were planning to watch any spring training games.
And then there are the fans who are able to get Marquee Sports Network through their cable provider, but who live outside the Chicago market and still aren’t able to watch the games because of MLB’s ludicrous blackout rules.
But at least there is one thing about the day Marquee Sports Network launched that all Cubs fans can be happy about.
The fact that only some Cubs fans were able to watch is just details, right?