Cubs botch Marquee Network launch – profiteer owner Tom Ricketts pushing fans away

Who can and can’t watch Cubs baseball?  No one knows.

Fans thought that signing up for DirecTV or Hulu+ would allow then to catch Saturday’s spring training opener.  For a variety of reasons, that didn’t happen for any of the Hulu+ subscribers and some of the DirecTV folks.

Marquee still has no deal with YouTube TV, Dish and Comcast, so the majority of Cubs fans within the team’s local territory couldn’t see its programming – regardless of its quality.

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This is what happens when sports franchises get into broadcasting.  Even with the Cubs partnership with Sinclair, the runway to launch has been bumpy.  Hires did not include Chicago favorites Dave Kaplan, Kelly Crull or Luke Stuckmeyer.  Instead they contracted with a guy from the NFL Network and a field reporter who worked for the Rockies.

Negotiations with carriers have been predictably slow, and delivery has been sketchy.

Chicago, like most cities, is very proud of its own.  Chicagoans don’t like change, and the Marquee Network has foisted a lot of change upon fans in the effort to maximize profits.  Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is big on profit.

Ricketts continues to charge fans top dollar for every aspect of Cubs fandom.  Tickets are among the most expensive in baseball.  Concessions are among the most expensive in baseball.  Watching games on TV used to be free.  Not anymore as Ricketts has moved games from free TV to the network he now owns.  He’s refurbished Wrigley Field – the Cubs most important asset – and talks about it as though it was done as a public service rather than an investment.

Cubs baseball used to be quaint.  The team was owned by the Wrigley Family.  Ticket prices remained static for decades.  Now, it’s big business for Ricketts, who is forcing generational fans to weigh their love for the team as an expense in the family budget,.

Instead of embracing fans as an important part of what makes the Cubs special, Ricketts and henchman Crane Kenney view them only through the prism of how much cash they can extract  before finally pushing them to find something else to do with their money, time, and attachment to the team.

What Cubs ownership has done is unique in sports.  Ricketts’ ravenous thirst for cash has driven fans into the odd position of loving their team while loathing its owner.  They root for the Cubs to win while hoping Ricketts loses money so he’ll sell to someone with a more holistic approach to ownership.

The Cubs Convention perfectly demonstrated this conflict.  Fans paid Ricketts $25 for the privilege of attending, and then roundly booed him during his annual appearance.  That’s the definition of an ironic spectacle.

No one is so naive they expect team owners to avoid financial windfalls, but profit as the singular measure of success insults the intelligence of fans.  Once fans are insulted, they invest their emotions – and cash – elsewhere.

These are strange days for the Chicago National League Ballclub.

Love the Cubs.  Loathe Ricketts.  Where does that leave the Marquee Network?

3 thoughts on “Cubs botch Marquee Network launch – profiteer owner Tom Ricketts pushing fans away

  1. Brian Scott

    You’d think the Cubs would have looked at the Dodgers and realized that no one is going to shell out that kind of money. The only teamcentric network that is moderately successful is the YES Network (Yankees). Texas (and ESPN) gambled on the Longhorns success and it hasn’t translated to large ratings. It’s not even carried by Comcast in Texas. The Astros asked for an exorbitant amount to carry their games after 2017 only to find no takers. They backed down and AT&T Sportsnet SW agreed to carriage. I know we live in a “wired world” but between this and the Oakland Athletics debacle of dropping all terrestrial radio coverage, the locals are the ones to get screwed more often than not.

  2. George Hook

    I’ve been dissing you on IU Basketball, Kent, but you are right on with every single point on this article. I’ve loved the Cubs since the 1970s, yet, this year, I will be “going South” mostly to watch Sox games ($5 Family Sundays and free Comcast TV). Yes, I will do one or two Wrigley Field games, but really, I am tired of paying $45 for cheap seats during the summer and the Marquee Network is just pure farce. Ricketts is killing the golden goose and I hope his hubris meets a fitting end to his lame-brained ownership, which, these days, is also denying the team quality free agent players because of some phantom budget considerations.

  3. Steve

    I wish I could get as fired up about this as you are, but I just can’t. I’ve been a Cubs fan my whole life. I lived in the city and it’s suburbs until 4 years ago when I moved to Tennessee. I haven’t been to Wrigley since 1999. While my son was growing up, we would go to Sox games because it was cheaper and a lot easier to get to from the suburbs. We also took in a lot of Kane County games.

    I’ve always been happy watching the games on TV. I got the MLB.TV package when I moved so I could continue watching the games. Say what you want about Rickets, but they brought a World Series title which neither Wrigley nor Tribune could do. I don’t care about Marquis or how much tickets and concession cost. I have other options I’m perfectly happy with.

    I agree that Rickets better be careful that anger doesn’t lead to apathy. That is the killer. Just ask IU basketball.


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