For years, Tribune Broadcasting’s WGN-9 and what is now WGN America brought Chicago Cubs baseball games to fans across the nation, helping fuel the growth of “Cubs Nation.”
As of today, the National League baseball team’s games will no longer be found on free, over-the-air TV. Thank the company that failed to complete its proposed merger with Tribune Media for the move.
Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Cubs on Wednesday announced the formation of a joint venture that will own and operate a whole new channel modeled after Spectrum’s controversial sports channel in Southern California that is now the near-exclusive home of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball.
Introducing the soon-to-launch Marquee Sports Network, a regional sports network that will be the Chicago region’s “exclusive network for fans to view live Cubs games beginning with the 2020 Major League Baseball season.” It will also feature exclusive Cubs content and other local sports programming.
In addition to the execution of the joint venture agreement, the Cubs simultaneously entered into a long-term rights agreement with Marquee.
The first question Cubs fans may have is how they’ll be able to watch Marquee Sports Network. What MVPDs in Chicagoland and across Cubs Nation will have access to it? Will it be exclusive to one MVPD, or available across all providers including DISH Network and DirecTV?
That was not noted in comments made by Sinclair President/CEO Chris Ripley. “This partnership brings together one of the most iconic sports franchises in the country with one of the largest television broadcasting companies. 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.”
Crane Kenney, President/Business Operations for the Cubs, added, “Providing an enhanced experience for our fans is at the heart of everything we do. We are excited to better serve our fans with expanded and exclusive programming showcasing our remarkable players,
beloved ballpark and storied past.”
Until now, Cubs games have been split between Disney O&O WLS-7 and WGN-9, Tribune’s flagship property and set to become a Nexstar Media Group property, along with WGN America. On cable, Cubs games have appeared alongside Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago White Sox telecasts on NBC Sports Chicago, formerly Comcast SportsNet.
WGN America ceased airing Cubs games in 2014; the development of the RSN announced today is not a total surprise.