Marquee Network has reached an agreement with Hulu, it announced Monday morning. The network will be carried on Hulu+Live TV.
"It's nice to have Hulu done," Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said. "They're the largest streaming service in the country and obviously really important here in Chicago. So we're really happy to have Hulu join more than 30 other distributors to pick up Marquee Network. So that means in addition to DirecTV, which is available in every home in our territory, if you are a cord-cutter, you now have a service that is available to every home in our territory as well. So in terms of people being potentially shut out from our games, there is a way, whether you're a cord-cutter or a traditional cable home, to have our service."
There's still a key order of business for Marquee to address. It doesn't have a deal with Xfinity/Comcast, the largest carrier in the Chicagoland area with an estimated 1.5 million subscribers.
"Comcast is a priority, because they've got half the homes," Kenney said. "Conversations are continuing. I'd just say if we go back to the comments we had at the convention, everyone takes a different strategy. Clearly, DirecTV and AT&T got their deal done last fall and thought it was important to get out early and assure their fans, their subscribers that they're going to have the Cubs games and relax, it's going to be there. Hulu decided to get it done before the first spring training game -- again, comfort there. And we had dozens and dozens of calls from Hulu subscribers saying, 'Hey, are we going to get Marquee?' The real question was do they want to carry it? Their strategy, Hulu's, much like AT&T's and DirecTV, was before the first game, they wanted to have their deal done. Comcast may have a different strategy.
"We still expect Comcast to carry it. But if today someone was worried about it, there's another way of getting our games for the (2020) season."
The Cubs face the Brewers in their regular-season opener on March 26.
"I would think personally, Opening Day of the regular season would be pretty important to Comcast," Kenney said. "But again, their leadership team will decide how eagerly they want to pursue this."
Marquee doesn't yet have a deal yet with Dish Network or YouTube TV, another popular streaming platform.
Live Cubs game broadcasts on the Marquee Sports Network will only be available to cable, satellite and streaming service subscribers who are in the team's broadcast territory, per MLB rules. So for example, if a consumer who lives in Florida is a Hulu subscriber, he or she wouldn't have access to watch Cubs broadcasts. Like always, MLB.tv is available for separate purchase to out-of-market consumers.
Non-game programming can be taken outside the market, Kenney said, and the Cubs are looking into that. So highlight shows, archived Cubs games and special features could potentially be available to consumers outside the market.
The Cubs' territory is defined as all of Illinois, all of Iowa, most of Indiana, a small fraction of southwest Michigan and a small fraction of Wisconsin, Kenney said.
The Marquee Network will carry nearly every Cubs spring training game and at least 145 regular-season games. It will launch Saturday, when the Cubs face the Athletics to open Cactus League play.