Sinclair’s Chicago Cubs RSN slides into Hulu, but no Comcast deal yet

Wrigley Field in Chicago
Wrigley Field (Rdikeman/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Marquee Sports Network, Sinclair’s new regional sports network with exclusive TV access to the Chicago Cubs, has slid into a distribution deal with Hulu + Live TV.

The network, which debuts on Feb. 22, will feature nearly every Cubs Spring Training game, at least 145 regular season games, exclusive Cubs content and original sports programming. According to Cord Cutters News, Marquee has also reached a deal with rival virtual MVPD, AT&T TV Now.

Marquee has set other distribution deals with cable provider RCN and with AT&T, which operates U-verse and DirecTV.

However, Marquee is still missing a key distribution deal with Comcast, one of the primary pay TV operators in the Chicago market. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Comcast Xfinity accounts for half of the cable subscribers in the region.

Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, told the publication he expects Comcast will carry Marquee, and Chairman Tom Ricketts said he expected a deal would get done by or before the Cubs’ March 26 season opener.

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Marquee is a key piece of Sinclair’s fairly new RSN business. Last August, Sinclair closed its $9.6 billion deal with Disney for 21 Fox Sports RSNs, which Disney had to divest as part of its Fox acquisition. The company also acquired a stake in YES Network, home to the New York Yankees and other teams.

At the time, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said his company could be interested in buying four more RSNs from AT&T. AT&T owns AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain and AT&T SportsNet Southwest, and has a 40% stake in Root Sports Northwest. Estimates at the time figured the networks could be sold for nearly $1 billion.

However, recent reports suggest that the bids AT&T has been receiving for the networks have been around $500 million or less.