Working in this business, you can’t help but lose your fandom. The more you know about the Ricketts family, the harder it becomes to root for the Chicago Cubs.
Thinking about the Cubs today, versus how I looked at the club when I was a child, or a teenager, I can’t help but quote glam metal band Poison’s 1991 power ballad “Something to Believe In.”
One line from that song resonates with me, far more today than it did 32 years ago when it was first released: “sometimes I wish to God I didn’t know now, the things I didn’t known then.” (“Every Rose Has its Thorn” gets all the hype, but this cerebral, deep tune is by far the superior slow song produced by these hair metal immortals)
Knowing how the sausage is made in sports, leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
Two Chicago teams, the Cubs and the Blackhawks, serve as the paradigm examples of this phenomena.
However, my fandom isn’t totally dead yet, even despite what the Cubs have done with their television broadcasting rights, and the deplorably despicable place where they reside on the political spectrum.
I’m more like Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker at the very end of Return of the Jedi. There is still some idealism and hope left in me. I’m not fully more machine than man yet.
Which is why I call on Ricketts and the Cubs to create a standalone Marquee Network streaming service, and to get it available ASAP.
Yes, it’s true, the sports business world is such a dark place that having the opportunity to spend money on a niche specific streaming product would be considered a ray of light. Here I am actively clamoring for the right to spend a finite amount of my money in perpetuity, as long as it’s at a fair price to the consumer, and that’s a positive.
Because at least it’s not an instance of extreme greed, which is what capitalism is all about- take any situation where there is a modicum of egregious demand and exploit it to the nth degree. The Ricketts family, the Cubs, MLB itself, the sports media world in general- all perfect examples of this.
To quote Maggie Simpson on that classic Treehouse of Horror special: “this is indeed a disturbing universe, Homer.”
Cord-cutting, generational phenomenon that it may be, is very much on the rise, and the club needs to realize that. Streaming service costs can add up, but they’re still a fraction of the egregious prices that people pay for cable these days.
Many are doing it just to watch the Cubs, because, as the saying goes on Wall St. “live sports is the glue that holds the cable bundle together.” And sports networks exist only for the purpose of broadcasting live events.
More people watch “this has been a test of the emergency broadcast system” than the talk show filler material on sports networks.
And I say that as a person who has been a guest on several of those talk shows. Not a single person ever told me they watched me on a show via their television. But many told me they saw my segments on the inter-webs. Honestly, I do not blame them, I would never watch a sports talk show on TV, unless I was on it, because they are mostly pretty mind-numbing. Anything on Marquee is a great example.
It is 2023, and you have to provide your fans with options. You could get a MLB.TV subscription, but then you need to find a good VPN to override the blackout restrictions. Even the best VPNs aren’t 100% reliable.
The New York Yankees have figured it out, as they released a YES Network standalone streaming service ahead of this baseball season.
Yet Ricketts and the Cubs can’t seem to figure it out. The Cubs have bungled this issue so badly, miscalculating the cable service providers and their current media landscape that we now have a reverse Chicago baseball landscape from the 1980s and 1990s.
Back then it was the White Sox who were the team difficult to watch on TV, and thus disconnected from the city and their fans. Remember Sports Vision and Sports Channel?
They existed in an era in which not many people had cable yet.
Meanwhile the Cubs were on the WGN Superstation, and well, simply put, this is a big reason why the Cubs are so much more popular than the White Sox today.
Today the roles are reversed, the Sox are so much easier to watch because they’re on NBC Sports Chicago every game.
Maybe Ricketts needs a history lesson from the 1980s-1990s to learn what could happen to his franchise next. That is if the Cubs remain consistently bad, while the White Sox get their act together and…no, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.
Yes, there has been a lot of talk about creating a Marquee streaming service, one that would charge a monthly fee, but where is it? A lot of people want this, and now. The demand is there. It’s time for action, not talking, Mr. Ricketts.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.
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