Since Cubs Business President Crane Kenney updated folks two weeks ago on the state of talks with Comcast about carrying the Marquee Sports Network – he was optimistic – there hasn’t been much to say.
There still isn’t THAT much to say as we sit here two weeks out from Opening Day, but the Cubs’ other president was on ESPN 1000 with Waddle and Silvy, and he was asked about where things stood with the Cubs network.
To be sure, Theo Epstein was not asked specifically about Comcast. But given that they serve half of homes in the Chicago area and they are the last major provider without a deal*, it’s pretty clear when someone asks, “Will every Cubs fan be able to watch your game in two weeks?,” they’re talking about Comcast.
Epstein’s response to that question: “Yeah, I think so …. When I talked to Crane about it, he’s really confident that there’s gonna be a deal …. It would sure be a shame if [the appetite for sports and Cubs baseball] were not taken care of. I think there are proper incentives on all sides to get a deal done, and I’d be really, really surprised if Cubs fans can’t just flip on a device one way or another and just watch the Cubs play.”
You shouldn’t take too much more away from this than a continuation of optimism, and Epstein was quick to note that this is not his department. But the messaging from the Cubs on this topic has been very consistent going back to Spring Training: yes, the negotiations on a carriage deal are pushing right up against the season, but a deal is expected to get done before the bell rings.
Also, it’s important to remember: the Cubs’ partner in Marquee, Sinclair, owns the many FOX RSNs, which have deals that are believed to expire with Comcast in August. So there are some very, very big negotiations ongoing between Sinclair and Comcast, in which Marquee might be swept up. Given the importance of getting/keeping baseball on the air if it makes it to Opening Day, I’d like to think those deals will all get done pretty soon, even if there weren’t this special situation with Marquee and Comcast in Chicago.
*(The next biggest providers without a deal, YouTube TV and DISH, are not necessarily expected to come to an agreement, though. Neither has shown a sense of urgency lately to carry regional sports networks, so unless something dramatic changes on that front, or unless they deem Marquee/the Cubs too important not to carry, it’ll probably be a while before we see movement on those fronts.)