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Comcast customers might not have Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network through spring training

Marquee general manager Mike McCarthy remains optimistic that the area’s largest cable distributor will carry the network ‘sooner than later.’ But that might not be until Opening Day.

Comcast customers might be without Cubs game through spring training.
Comcast customers might be without Cubs game through spring training.

Many Cubs fans won’t be able to watch Marquee Sports Network when it launches at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Of the big local cable and satellite distributors, AT&T (U-Verse, DirecTV and AT&T TV) and RCN customers can. Of the big streaming services, Hulu subscribers with Hulu + Live TV can, too.

But Comcast, the area’s largest cable distributor, hasn’t bought in yet.

Comcast spokesman Jack Segal confirmed the sides have been in discussions, but he added, “There’s still time before Opening Day.”

That’s March 26. So Comcast customers might miss out on spring training.

“I know this: I wouldn’t want to be in the carriage business in Chicago if I didn’t have Cubs games to offer,” Marquee general manager Mike McCarthy said. “So I remain confident this will get settled sooner than later.”

Though we don’t know when there will be a deal, we can make some safe assumptions as to why there isn’t one.

Content providers charge distributors to carry their programming, and those costs are passed on to customers. For example, RCN subscribers received a letter this month explaining that the company didn’t raise its monthly video surcharge enough to accommodate adding Marquee. Hence, customers will be charged another $2.40 per month. Perhaps Comcast is in a similar position.

If Marquee’s cost isn’t the issue with Comcast — the Cubs have said they’ve presented distributors with comparable deals — maybe the cost of other stations is. Marquee is a partnership between the Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group, the second-largest TV-station operator in the country.

When Sinclair worked out a deal with AT&T to carry Marquee, it was part of an over-arching deal that included carrying local stations it owns. Perhaps Sinclair is leveraging Comcast with its stations, as well.

Whatever the case, McCarthy remains confident Comcast will carry Marquee at some point.

“I’ve been saying this in different ways for the last couple weeks,” McCarthy said. “I find it very hard to believe there isn’t going to be a deal.”