While blacked-out Dodgers fans finally get their channel, many Cubs fans continue to wait

Might the coronavirus pandemic spur Comcast and Marquee to give people something else to watch? Probably not.

SHARE While blacked-out Dodgers fans finally get their channel, many Cubs fans continue to wait

There was no need for the irony police to descend upon Los Angeles. The case was cut-and-dried.

For the last six seasons, most of the L.A. market was unable to watch Dodgers games because Charter Communications was the only distributor carrying SportsNet LA, of which Charter and the Dodgers share ownership. No other providers were willing to pay the high-end carriage fee.

But last week, AT&T signed on, bringing DirecTV, U-Verse and AT&T TV customers into the fold. Now, almost all Dodgers fans with a pay-TV service in the team’s viewing area can watch the games.

Of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic, there are no games.

Isn’t it ironic?

Though nothing about the 1996 hit song “Ironic” — in which Alanis Morissette repeatedly poses that question — had anything to do with irony, the Dodgers’ situation is dripping with it. Fans missed most of the regular-season games of a team that won almost 60% of them in the six-year span, and now that team is like the rest of us, sitting at home waiting.

The breakthrough wasn’t so much about appeasing fans during a difficult time as it was about business. The Los Angeles Times reported that AT&T is seeking subscribers for its streaming service HBO Max, which launches in May, and can sell it to Charter’s 15 million-plus customers nationwide.

Whatever it takes, right? No one asks how the Dodger Dogs are made. Fans just know they taste good.

It got me thinking about all the Cubs fans who don’t have access to their team’s channel, Marquee Sports Network. Comcast remains the biggest holdout in the area, but with most people staying home, might the cable provider and the Cubs hash out an agreement to give fans something else to watch?

Representatives for Comcast and Marquee had the same response: There was nothing new to report.

So roughly half of the area’s pay-TV audience continues to miss out on classic games (this was Walk-Off Home Run Week), original programming (MLB Network produced a show of the Cubs’ top 35 announcer calls that aired last week) and anything else that might help tide fans over.

(Granted, Comcast customers could spend another $54.99 per month for Hulu + Live TV while they wait. But that seems a bit exorbitant for one channel.)

During spring training, Comcast said there was plenty of time to work out a deal before Opening Day. Now there’s even more time, considering no one knows when that will be. And it appears it still will take Opening Day’s arrival to get a deal done.

NBCSCH classics are winners

NBC Sports Chicago is nearing the end of its schedule of 1996 Bulls and 2010 Blackhawks postseason games. The network will show Game 2 of the Bulls-SuperSonics NBA Finals at 7 p.m. Friday and Game 1 of the Hawks-Flyers Stanley Cup Final at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the nightly games have been consistently the highest-rated classics in the Chicago market compared to any other network airing a classic game at that time, according to Nielsen Media Research. That’s either a testament to fans’ love for their teams or their yearning for a winner.

Once those championship runs conclude, the network will move its schedule of 2005 White Sox games to prime time, starting next Friday. While Marquee is missing out on its first season on the air, NBCSCH is missing the chance to capitalize on the buzz generated by the current Sox.

Its online simulations using the video game MLB The Show 20 with Jason Benetti and Chuck Garfien on the call are fun, but nothing beats the real thing. NBCSCH is continuing to work on additional programming concepts for the downtime.

Bears on “Hard Knocks” … in 2021?

According to ESPN, the HBO-NFL Films collaboration “Hard Knocks” will follow the Chargers and Rams in training camp, if camps open. That means another season without the Bears, but the NFL couldn’t have forced them into appearing anyway. By making the playoffs two seasons ago, they were exempt.

If teams meet three criteria, the league can force them to appear: 1) They don’t have a head coach in his first year; 2) they haven’t made the playoffs in the last two seasons; and 3) they haven’t appeared on the show in the last 10 years.

So if the Bears miss the playoffs next season and coach Matt Nagy returns in 2021, they could be picked for their first appearance.

But if that’s the scenario, the show doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?

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