Kenney Optimistic Marquee, Comcast Will Reach Deal

(670 The Score) A month away from the launch of the Cubs' new Marquee Sports Network, there's still a major hurdle to be cleared when it comes to getting the product to consumers.

Marquee hasn't yet reached a carriage deal with Comcast, the largest cable provider in Chicago and the surrounding region. Until an agreement is reached, the Cubs are at risk of having their games not be seen by many of their fans.

Despite that, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney remains confident Marquee and Comcast will strike a deal before the network launches on Feb. 22.

"We've had good conversations with them," Kenney said on the Mully & Haugh Show on Thursday. "What's important for me is the terms that have been accepted by the 25 carriers are the very same terms that we're offering to Comcast. Our negotiations are pretty simple. It's, 'Listen, we think these terms are acceptable kind of to the marketplace. We hope you'll carry it on the same terms with no higher hurdle than anyone else has had to climb.' We think it will get done.

"Comcast picked up the Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox (with NBC Sports Chicago). They certainly know the importance of the Cubs. Last year, we were with NBC Sports (Chicago) and actually the Cubs represented 50 percent of the rating point. So, if you looked at all the games, the four teams, and divided them by team, half the rating points belonged to one team and that was the Cubs. They know the importance of the team. They're really smart. They're really good people at Comcast.

"I think they do the right thing at the end of the day, given the terms are as advantageous to them as they are to anyone else."

Marquee has reached carriage deals with most major providers in the region, a process that started early with DirecTV. The network is expected to be available through many streaming services as well. 

But concerns over a deal between Marquee and Comcast have loomed. During the Cubs Convention last weekend, fans booed team chairman Tom Ricketts when he spoke of Marquee. 

The Cubs open Cactus League play against the Athletics on Feb. 22, the day Marquee is set to launch. Chicago then opens its regular season at Milwaukee on March 26. Those are two key dates in the timeline for Marquee and Comcast.

"Comcast decided not to go first," Kenney said. "Everyone has a different strategy. You see these things run down to the finish line before where some of them get done the day before, where the negotiating teams think they have the most leverage if they wait. Others think they have an advantage by getting out early and calming the market and telling folks, 'Don't worry, DirecTV subscribers, we have the Cubs.'

"I go into Xfinity stores and occasionally have called my Comcast provider. I don't tell them who I am, and I say, 'What are you going to do with the Cubs?' and I'm assured every time I talk to them, so far three-for-three, 'Oh, no, we'll have the Cubs.' So, they are telling their subscribers they're going to have the network. But we'll see when it gets done."