Rozner: Cubs and Comcast playing a dangerous game of chicken with Marquee network

  • If you don't have the Marquee Sports Network, you likely missed watching Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish during a spring training game last weekend in Mesa, Ariz.

    If you don't have the Marquee Sports Network, you likely missed watching Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish during a spring training game last weekend in Mesa, Ariz. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/2/2020 1:59 PM

Since Rob Manfred became commissioner five years ago, we have heard over and over and over again that baseball must attract younger viewers and get more kids to the games.

Who better than a 61-year-old labor lawyer to truly understand the solution, right?

 

Manfred believes the answer is three-batter minimums and signaling the intentional walk without those time-consuming pitches outside the strike zone.

Take a moment and laugh, being careful -- please -- not to spit out your beverage.

There is certainly some truth in what Manfred says about creating interest in the demographic, regardless of how wrong his methods might be.

The very simple answer is affordable tickets, inexpensive TV broadcasts and available playing fields.

The pitch clock will not save the sport, Mr. Commissioner.

A child can't get interested in a game that can't be watched with mom or dad, with siblings and friends. That -- along with actually playing the game -- is how children develop a lasting love for a beautiful game.

So Manfred's goal ought to be ensuring that games can be seen, that there is never again a blacked-out event.

Ever.

On whatever device you choose, a fan willing to pay ought to be able to see every contest played in any city, and see that game from anywhere in the world.

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Seriously, it's 2020 and there are still areas that are shut out, for various reasons that are too deep in the weeds to waste your time with it here.

Suffice it to say, if you want people watching the games, you should probably allow them to watch the games.

Crazy, right?

But while Manfred fiddles, this burns in the minds of those who simply are not given the opportunity to witness the action.

It has been a nightmare for Dodgers fans and threatens to be for Cubs fans who do not yet have access to the Marquee Sports Network.

Now, if betting you would probably place a wager on Cubs games being available on Comcast -- and DISH, for that matter -- before the regular season begins in a little more than three weeks.

Seems like a wise gamble.

Bloomberg estimates this high-stakes game of chicken could cost the network $100 million a year in revenue if it doesn't make a deal with Comcast and its 1.5 million subscribers in the Chicago area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The truth is both sides have much to lose if the games are unavailable to a cable operator that seems to own half the world at this point.

In any case, this is likely to happen and, naturally, the cost will be passed along to you.

Thing is, most of us have had it with huge cable or satellite bills and we are unplugging more and more every day.

With smart TVs making it simple to add the apps, and streaming services providing so much entertainment for reasonable prices, you can cut your costs by $100 or even $200 a month, while picking and choosing your services, including channels and sporting choices.

That's because, frankly, we're sick of paying for hundreds of channels that we don't need, being locked into contracts and paying the monthly cost of a Maserati to huge corporations that have the extraordinary ability to keep you on the phone for an hour, and then disconnect at precisely the moment you're going to tell them to stick their boxes in a cable van.

Good luck finding anyone under the age of 30 who even has cable TV service.

They do not care about your 300 channels or your marvelous packages. They will not pay for what they're not using, and they don't want to subsidize those who must have the Outdoor Channel and eight shopping networks.

Which brings us back to the Marquee Sports Network.

Some fans would be willing to pay anything to get the channel, but many walking among us would merely move on to something else if told they could not see the games.

Tread very carefully -- very carefully -- as you threaten to keep something from people who will forget you quickly and find other ways to spend their entertainment dollars.

This applies to both sides of an expensive argument.

The problem with sports teams and networks and cable companies and satellite providers is they all take us for granted, that they can remove from our pockets whatever they wish and we will simply take it.

The revolution has begun and it will only gather steam, as customers figure out the beauty of unplugging, saying so long to those who steal from us -- and then hang up on us.

As for the viewer baseball is trying to attract, holding them hostage from watching the games is hardly the way to get them interested in going to games.

If they can't see it, they won't care. And they will move on swiftly.

Anyway, that's all the time we have for now, ladies and gentlemen. Gotta get back to "The Crown" on Netflix.

It's brilliant. And, go figure, it's available.

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