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Everything your grandma wants to know about The Marquee Network (but is afraid to ask)

The long-awaited Cubs channel finally debuts on Saturday to less than half the TV homes in Chicago. Many questions remain, so let's try and answer some of them.

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk

Hello, frents!

Great response to yesterday’s newsletter on Dan Wallach and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum. The post got almost double the reads of my previous best letter. Unreal.

To the many of you who subscribed after reading it: Thank you and welcome! Grab a beer from the fridge and make yourself at home.

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Here goes nothing (for some of us anyway)

So here we are. After years and years of knowing that a Cubs network was coming, it’s finally here — and as ready as it will ever be.

Wait! That’s actually *not true.*  At least I hope it isn’t.

As you may have heard, more than a few Cubs fans won’t be able to watch the network’s debut on Saturday if the team and assorted providers don’t strike a deal by then. To be more clear, if you subscribe to Xfinity, Dish, YouTubeTV, Sling or others, you won’t be able to watch a bunch of A’s minor leaguers play their Cubs counterparts on Saturday afternoon.

Yes, there are worse tragedies. If your life is turned upside down by that, then I’m not sure what to tell you.

But there’s no denying this could get worse before it gets better. While the idea of an all-Cubs network is great, the ongoing beanbrawl with Comcast means it’s going to be awhile before the station can shine on its own in front of its maximum audience.

Maybe all the way up until opening day or even after.

I also don’t think the team has done a good job of messaging this launch, at least judging from the angry and confused social media comments I’ve been seeing from the older population for the past year.

So I’m here today to answer all of the questions that you and your grandma who once dated Andy Pafko need answered.

So who CAN get this network upon launch?

The team has already signed a deal with the AT&T family — U-Verse and DirecTV — as well as RCN, Charter Spectrum, the version of Hulu you have to pay $50 for and a whole bunch of weird Iowa cable providers you’ve never heard of.  There’s a full list on the Marquee website.

Do I have to pay extra for this network?

Not directly. I still see angry commenters on Facebook acting like they’ll have to shell out $19.99 for each individual game like it’s a Mike Tyson fight. But in reality, Marquee is just like NBC Sports Chicago — it will make its money by charging providers a carriage fee for each subscriber, whether or not they’re tuning into  baseball or not. That fee will be baked into your cable bill, which is probably already too high.

Is a Comcast deal close?

Probably not. As the cable provider for more than half of Chicago, Comcast is in a very advantageous position. It can wait the team out as long as they negotiate the lowest carriage fee it can.

Because get this: For the first time in history, Comcast is somehow not the biggest bad guy. Think about it. When your average Cubs fan goes to watch his or her favorite team on opening day, only to find out they can’t, who do you think they’re going to blame?

The team that raised prices at the ballpark, hasn’t spent money on the club the past two offseasons and are helping raise funds for a president they may not support?

Or the faceless corporate monolith whose only presence in their everyday lives is the black router behind their flatscreen?

It’s a lot more satisfying to yell at the Ricketts family member on your screen than a call center worker on the other end of the phone line.

Comcast has two other big advantages:

  1. The Cubs need Comcast’s subscription base in order to charge higher ad rates.
  2. If subscribers cancel Comcast video and jump to, say, Hulu, they’ll likely still get paid by providing the broadband Cubs fans are using to watch Hulu.

What will Marquee show when the games aren’t on?

That was the biggest question for awhile, but Jeff Agrest at the Sun-Times got the full first day schedule on Thursday. There will be a lot of game replays and countdown-style shows, but there’s also some original programming like a behind-the-scenes show with the team and some documentaries.

For as crappy as these carriage fee battles have been, the other end of this looks great.

Why does the Marquee logo look like it belongs on a box of butter?

Great question. I think the alignment of the letters would also make for a good mustache.

See?

Who’s going to be the most entertaining of the analysts?

I think it’s going to be Lou Piniella. I forgot how much I missed this guy after watching the video below. I still can’t believe we had Lou and Ozzie working in this town at the same time. If there’s a way for Marquee to borrow Ozzie for a day or two of work with Lou it needs to happen.

What’s the best part of this deal?

Clearly it’s the fact that you won’t have to play that guessing game of whether the game is on WGN, ESPN, WLS, My50, NBC Sports or NBC Sports Plus — a roulette wheel you were always guaranteed to lose five times before ultimately winning. (

Once your provider gets Marquee — and that might be easier said than done — you’ll always know where to find the Cubs.

That alone has to be worth a few dollars extra each month.

Last night
Hornets 103, Bulls 93
Nothing to see here, just the Bulls missing their first 17 three-pointers to lose their seventh straight game.

Tonight
Predators at Hawks (7:30, NBC Sports Chicago)

Saturday
A’s at Cubs (2:05 pm, Marquee)
Angels at Sox (2:05, no tv)
Suns at Bulls (7 pm, NBC Sports Chicago)
Georgetown at DePaul (8 pm, FS1)

Sunday
Hawks at Stars (2 pm, NBC Sports Chicago)
Cubs at Dodgers (2:05, Marquee)
Sox at Reds (2:05, no tv)
Minnesota at Northwestern (3 pm, Big Ten Network)
Wizards at Bulls (6 pm, NBC Sports Chicago)

Casey Urlacher is facing charges for being involved in an illegal offshore gambling ring, but all I can think about is why his brother didn’t get him some free hair. (NBC Sports Chicago)

•  Ben Gordon became the second former Bull in as many weeks to bare his soul on the Players Tribune and it’s again a must-read. Gordon might have been my favorite Bull to watch in the post-Jordan era. I hope he finds extended peace. (Players Tribune)

Could the Bruins and Blackhawks pull off a deal for Brandon Saad? (The Athletic)

• Don’t think White Sox fans are excited for the season? They’ve plowed their way into the best fan base finals tournament that Fox has been running on Twitter.

• Finally, Chicago is going to be thinking about Derek Carr’s Instagram for awhile.

Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter. Have a great weekend, everyone.