Whenever Marquee Sports Network promotes a Cubs broadcast on Twitter, the replies are predictable.
‘‘Would be nice to watch this.’’
‘‘I’d love to if you were on any of the streaming services.’’
‘‘Can’t watch! No streaming option.’’
Marquee seemingly can’t go a day without hearing from cord-cutters who demand the network appear on a streaming service.
Here’s the thing: It does. Just not on the ones they want.
On Wednesday, Marquee announced it had reached an agreement with streaming service FuboTV, giving it a second over-the-top provider. Marquee had been available only on AT&T TV among streamers. It will appear on Fubo’s basic English-language package in the network’s footprint in the coming weeks.
FuboTV is a sports-focused service with about 90 channels, including local channels, 30 of the top 35 cable channels and regional sports networks, according to the website The Streamable, which tracks and reports on the steaming industry. Fubo normally costs $64.99 per month and offers add-on packages. In the Chicago market, all subscribers will pay an additional $6 regional sports fee.
But Fubo and AT&T aren’t Hulu Live TV or YouTube TV, which rank 1-2 in subscribers among streaming services with roughly 4 million and 3 million, respectively. They aren’t even Sling TV, which ranks third with almost 2.5 million but has shown a disdain for sports programming.
According to Fubo, it had 548,000 paid subscribers at the end of 2020. AT&T TV reported it had 656,000 at the end of the year.
Marquee was on Hulu last year, but the relationship lasted about eight months. Hulu pulled the network, which is jointly owned by the Cubs and Sinclair, in October.
But Marquee isn’t the only RSN struggling with streaming carriage. The 19 former Fox regional sports networks Sinclair owns, which were rebranded as Bally Sports this week, are only on AT&T. SportsNet LA and YES Network aren’t on anywhere regularly. NBC Sports Chicago is available on AT&T, Fubo, Hulu and YouTube.
So what’s the problem, and who’s to blame?
‘‘It is not an easy problem to solve, and I feel like everyone tries to point the finger at someone else,’’ said Jason Gurwin, co-founder of The Streamable. ‘‘The RSNs point the finger at the streaming services; the streaming services point the finger at the RSNs. Ultimately, it comes down to cost.’’
Streaming services differentiate themselves from cable and satellite providers by their price. They generally have one tier of programming, and because they don’t have the volume of channels that cable and satellite do, they cost much less.
‘‘A lot of these services say only about 10% of their viewers are streaming regional sports,’’ Gurwin said. ‘‘Their feeling is, why should we add the cost to the 90% of consumers who aren’t doing it just so those 10% of the people can see it?’’
Streamers also haven’t included RSN fees in their cost, but that might be changing. Fubo first added a $5 fee in August 2020 for subscribers with AT&T SportsNet Southwest. In February, it added the fee with NESN and MSG Buffalo. Now Marquee has it, too, but at a dollar more.
But even if streamers begin adding fees to carry RSNs, they still will cost less than cable and satellite subscriptions. They also allow for the flexibility of ending a subscription at any time.
‘‘The major benefit that streaming services bring is that you don’t need to be subscribed to them all the time,’’ Gurwin said. ‘‘If you wanted to watch Marquee, you could sign up for [a service] for the six months that you want to watch the Cubs, and there’s no cancellation penalty. That’s the beauty of it.’’
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And to some Cubs fans, the picture would be prettier on their preferred streamer.
For more information on how to watch the Cubs without cable this season, click here to visit The Streamable website.
LARGEST LIVE-TV STREAMING SERVICES IN U.S. (most recent reports)
1. Hulu Live TV ($64.99/month): 4 million
2. YouTube TV ($64.99): 3 million
3. Sling TV ($35): 2.47 million
4. Philo ($20): 800,000
5. AT&T TV ($64.99): 656,000
6. Fubo TV ($64.99): 548,000