The Cubs and Sinclair launched Marquee ahead of the 2020 MLB season expecting to have 162 regular season games to form the backbone of network content.
That obviously didn’t happen, and while the new network did manage to find a fairly solid base of distribution, there wasn’t much there aside from those games. Earlier this month they were airing a 2019 tennis match during Theo Epstein’s end-of-year press conference, for example.
Update: a 2019 tennis match is still on. pic.twitter.com/EUKk0ZxahZ
— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) October 5, 2020
The game broadcasts themselves weren’t always perfect, either, while they forced Len Kasper and Jim DeShaies to wear suits throughout a sweltering summer. And no matter how useful it might be to have Sinclair’s Tennis Channel as a corporate sibling, clearly there was a big need for, well, anything else.
They have at least a bit more to offer now, thanks to an agreement announced today with the Chicago Bears. The deal will see a weekly studio show followed by a re-broadcast of the prior week’s Bears game.
From the Bears:
The weekly show, “Bear Essentials,” will typically air Tuesday evenings and be hosted by Marquee Sports Network host Cole Wright. Wright, who joined Marquee from the NFL Network, will be joined by Bears personnel and analysts as they break down the week in Bears action and look ahead to the following Bears matchup. Immediately following the show, Marquee Sports Network will air a two-hour director’s cut of the Bears’ most recent regular-season game.
“We’re excited to bring Bears fans more access to the news and information they crave with additional Bears coverage and analysis on Marquee Sports Network,” said Scott Hagel, Bears Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications.
This obviously isn’t a deal that transforms Marquee into a Cubs & Bears network, but it’s an important step for Marquee’s presence in Chicago. And that’s their main avenue towards staying relevant throughout a long winter. It’s important to note that the re-airs, the most valuable property here, will only be local markets:
Beginning this Wednesday, Oct. 14, “Bear Essentials” will air at 7 p.m. immediately following The Stadium. The Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup will re-air immediately following “Bear Essentials” at 7:30 p.m.
“Wrigley Field was home to the Chicago Bears from 1921 to 1970, and it will be spectacular to have Bears coverage back in Wrigleyville on Marquee Sports Network,” McCarthy added.
Per NFL rules, these shows will only run in the Chicago, Rockford and South Bend areas. Marquee extends beyond those markets but will be blacked out in areas outside the team’s primary and secondary markets.
It’s a smart move for Marquee; Chicago might be split between the White Sox and Cubs but there’s only one football team. Adding any bit of value to subscribers can only help, too, as they continue to battle for expanded distribution; YouTube TV, among others, still doesn’t carry the channel.
At the very least, it gives reopening Chicago bars something to put on the the screens on a Wednesday night until the Bulls come back next season.