|Broadcast area||Northern and Central Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska (Mainly the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro, Lincoln Metro, Grand Island metro, Kearney Mircro and the Sioux City Metro), and Northern and western half of central Indiana|
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Sister channels||Fox Sports Networks|
|Launched||February 22, 2020|
|Available on select other cable systems in designated broadcast area||Consult your local cable provider or program listings source for channel availability|
Marquee Sports Network is a regional sports network operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Chicago Cubs, launched on February 22, 2020. It is devoted exclusively to Cubs baseball, replacing a triad of channels (cable channel NBC Sports Chicago and broadcast partners WLS-TV and WGN-TV) as the exclusive broadcaster of Cubs games not shown on national TV.
On November 16, 2015 in an interview with WSCR radio, the Cubs' president of business operations Crane Kenney stated that the team was seeking to launch its own in-house regional sports network after its current broadcast contracts with NBC Sports Chicago, WGN Sports, and WLS-TV expire after the 2019 season.
On December 18, 2018, it was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times that the team was preparing to launch its RSN, "Marquee", in 2020, and that Sinclair Broadcast Group was a frontrunner to serve as managing partner. Sinclair had previously attempted to purchase WGN's parent company Tribune Media, and runs the national sports network Stadium with the White Sox's investment arm Silver Chalice. The venture was officially announced in February 2019 to be launched in 2020 with Sinclair.
On May 22, 2019, Michael McCarthy was named general manager of the Marquee Sports Network after being the Cubs' consultant on the channel. He is the former president of the MSG Network and a former top official with the Milwaukee Bucks (COO) and the St. Louis Blues (vice chairman).
On August 22, 2019, a consortium of Sinclair and Entertainment Studios acquired Fox Sports Networks for $10.6 billion, thus making Marquee a sister to them (FSN previously operated a Chicago network, but it became defunct when Chicago's professional teams abandoned it in favor of a joint venture with Comcast--currently known as NBC Sports Chicago). The divestiture was mandated as part of Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox, who chose not to retain the networks under its successor Fox Corporation.
Marquee Sports Network officially launched on February 22, 2020 at 1 p.m. CT, with its first program being a launch special hosted by actor and Cubs fan Bill Murray, followed by a documentary on Ernie Banks. The channel aired its first live spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Sloan Park later in the day; the game had been postponed from the afternoon due to the threat of rain.
The Cubs' current television commentators Len Kasper (play-by-play) and Jim "J.D." Deshaies (color) will maintain their roles on Marquee. On May 1, 2019, it was reported that David Kaplan--NBC Sports Chicago studio host for Cubs games--had renewed his contract with the channel, dispelling rumors that he planned to join Marquee. Cole Wright, formerly of NFL Network, will serve as studio host, and Taylor McGregor, formerly field reporter for the Colorado Rockies on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, will serve as field reporter. The channel also brought on Bob Vorwald, former executive producer of WGN Sports.
After the 2020 season, Kasper left the Cubs and Marquee to become the radio voice of the Chicago White Sox on WMVP.Jon Sciambi, currently the television and radio play-by-play voice on ESPN's MLB national broadcasts, was then tabbed to replace Kasper.
Besides game broadcasts, Marquee will carry documentaries, game replays and player profiles, as well as coverage of minor league games. The channel might attempt to pick up college basketball for the winter time. Stadium and the Fox Sports Regional Networks, now partly owned by Sinclair, would provide some programming.
The Marquee is broadcast in five different states, particularly Illinois (With the exception of the state's Southern side), most of Iowa, Western Nebraska, Northern and the western half of Central Indiana, and Kenosha County, WI. The broadcasting areas will be listed for each state below.
Upon the announcement of the channel, the network's ability to gain carriage was compared to the troubled negotiations of the Los Angeles Dodgers' SportsNet LA. Industry observer Phillip Swan thought Marquee would have a "50-50 chance of working" while commenting ""How can you not look at the disaster of the SportsNet (LA) scene and not be a little skeptical?" Charter has since come to terms with DirecTV to carry SportsNet LA.
Industry experts predicted that Marquee would seek around $5 per subscriber placing it behind YES Network and ESPN. Sinclair secured Marquee's first major carriage agreement with Charter Communications on July 11, 2019. As part of the multi-year carriage agreement, Marquee was bundled alongside Sinclair's owned-and-operated television stations, Tennis Channel and the regional Fox Sports Networks that Sinclair was in the process of buying from Disney at the time.
On October 17, 2019, AT&T agreed to carry Marquee on its television services (including DirecTV, the second largest provider serving the region behind Comcast) as part of a larger, multi-year carriage agreement with Sinclair. Sinclair later reached a deal with Mediacom on November 6, 2019 to carry Marquee Sports Network. On February 17, 2020, the network announced an agreement to carry the network on Hulu's live streaming service. On February 27, the network announced an agreement with WOW cable.
Comcast, the largest television provider in the region (with an estimated 1.5 million subscribers), reached an agreement to carry Marquee on July 24 (in time for the Cubs' opening game) as part of a larger renewal for Sinclair-owned television stations and cable networks.
Marquee's deal with DirecTV is for in-market coverage only. Unlike many other regional sports networks, Marquee is not included in DirecTV's Sports Pack, which carries RSNs nationwide with appropriate blackouts of professional events.
Dish Network and YouTube TV (which has indicated they have no deal for Marquee's sister RSNs after February 29 and would remove them from the platform on that date) have not reached an agreement with Sinclair to carry Marquee Sports Network.
Additionally, Marquee also has the rights to the games for the Cubs' Minor League Baseball clubs, including Des Moines's Iowa Cubs and the South Bend Cubs, ending deals with local broadcast subchannels to leverage Iowa and northern Indiana cable systems into carrying the network.