Marquee Sports Network: Initial Reactions
With the launch of Marquee Sports network, a new era of Cubs TV has begun. We've got some individual reactions to the first few moments thus far.
I was pretty happy with it. I watched the first spring training game and was impressed with the coverage. Granted, as a cord cutter, I was unable to watch it on a cable provider. I didn't get Hulu live activated yet either so it was Reddit streams for me. Unfortunately, that also means I can just watch games for now, not any of the other content. It's a disappointment for now, as I'd rather be watching Cubs stuff 24/7, but not a big deal really.
That said, the in-game coverage was fantastic for a spring training game. One of the first shows I was treated to was a close up on the field view of Alec Mills as he warmed up. It was a camera angle I've not seen in a pro baseball telecast before. Good start. There were other decent shots too, but fairly standard stuff. At no point did it come off as being amateurish. Nor did at any point was there a clear mistake where I might be tempted to think "oh well this clearly their first time."
Len and JD were in solid form. It was great to hear their voices again. Especially as the Cubs got off to a solid start. They were joined by several guests throughout the night, all of whom were prepared and ready to roll. My favorite was Mark Grace. It was great to see him again. He was well prepared, insightful, and had some fun stories of the past to share. Sometimes, listening to old-time players can be cringey, because "they played the game the right way and these whippersnappers don't know." But Grace highlighted some interesting changes and provided solid insight and a few laughs. It was great having him on for half the game. I'd love to see a "Mark Grace Show" on Marquee at some point.
Also fantastic was getting Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant Mic'd up. That kind of thing needs to happen on a regular basis. It was outside the box, and a fantastic example of the new kind of TV coverage we might get to see.
At this point, I understand there will be growing pains. There is still work to do to get Marquee onto more providers. But all of that said, things are good for right now. There's still over a month until opening day to iron out some of the kinks. It's not perfect, but it was a solid launch.
Another recently highly anticipated service for me was Disney plus. Their streaming service, home of ALL Disney movies, Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic universe, the Simpsons, among many other things. Their day 1 was filled with lots of buffering errors, connection drops, and other hiccups. To this day, it's still not working as well as one might expect for the House of Mouse. Literally the biggest media conglomerate in the world. Marquee had a smoother launch than that in my opinion.
I'm really looking forward to seeing Marquee develop come opening day, as well as it's evolution throughout the season. As I've said before, 12-year-old Pronk would be thrilled to get a 24/7 Cubs channel. From what I've seen so far, Marquee appears to be a big step for the team.
Like Pronk, I am not able to get the full Marquee experience but I will offer my thoughts on what I have seen. Like Pronk said earlier, despite it's hiccups the launch has definitely gone smoother than Disney+ and even CBS All Access. These are both HUGE money ventures that've had WAY more problems. I do think they deserve some credit there. The rest of my review is going to be divided into 2 parts, game coverage and channel content.
Game Coverage: I'm an MLB.tv subscriber so I get the Marquee feed and the gameday experience has been an almost seamless transition and in some cases even better. The gameday experience itself is probably a bit better. I don't mind the score 'bug' at the bottom of the screen. I think it's a clean look and doesn't distract from the game. Also, keep in mind that they haven't rolled out all of the features like pitch speed, strike zone, etc. I like the look. My one gripe is the music, it's pretty terrible. At first, I thought maybe it was just that I was used to the old music and that it would grow on me. It hasn't grown on me. At all. I cringe when I hear it. If this was the best option, I'd love to hear the other options. It doesn't feel 'baseball-y or Marquee-y' at all. I mean, check out this intro from 2003 on WGN (This was the division-clinching intro, but at 1:21 the standard intro plays), THAT was an intro:
The one thing they got absolutely right, though, is adding Mark Grace to the telecast. Listening to him talk about the Kerry Wood game and just hearing him talk about his love for the Cubs has just been wonderful. It's hard to believe he's been gone for so long, but I'm glad he's back. Sidenote: it's time for Sammy to come back too. I'd love to hear him talk about Baez, Bryzzo, and Hulk. For me, the one TBD has been Taylor McGregor replacing Kelly Crull. I liked Kelly a lot, and she seemed to have a good connection to the team. Taylor has been pretty good already (except the K against Clark the Cub). Overall, I'd give the game broadcast a strong B+.
Channel Content: This is going to be limited as I don't have access to the full channel. I do have the Roku app, and it shows highlights and trailers for the content on the channel. I can even look at the live channel guide, but just not watch anything. First impressions on the Roku app, it's looks really nice and is easy to navigate. Looking at the live channel lineup, it's pretty weak so far (which isn't unexpected, Disney+ is facing the same challenges). The Cubs 162 series looks great but it feels like most of the content so far is stuff from the Cubs Youtube channel. I assume that will change but it's pretty limited so far. Add in the fact that Marquee is having so many carriage issues AND out of market fans can't even get the channel. I give the channel itself a C-.
Overall, I give Marquee a solid score of C+ at launch with the capability to get much stronger. Make it easier for the fans to see the product and change that awful music and I'd instantly give it a B+, maybe even A-.