With or without Comcast, Marquee Sports Network to launch Feb. 22

Marquee Sports Network

With just 34 days to go, Marquee Sports Network still has no deal with the Chicago area’s largest cable company. But the new television home of the Chicago Cubs announced it would launch with or without Comcast Xfinity on February 22.

Official word of the start date along with news of key talent hires came Saturday during the annual Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Confirming a report by The Daily Herald’s Barry Rozner, play-by-play announcer Len Kasper and color analyst Jim Deshaies will be back in the broadcast booth. Chris Myers and Cole Wright will serve as studio hosts.

Additional analysts will include Rick Sutcliffe, Lou Piniella, Doug Glanville, Ryan Dempster, Jason Hammel, Dan Plesac, Mark DeRosa and Carlos Pena. Taylor McGregor will serve as sideline reporter.

Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, said pregame, postgame and play-by-play coverage would be supplemented by documentary features, rebroadcasts of classic Cubs games and other sports content on the 24-hour network.

Still it may not be an easy sell for a market long accustomed to seeing the Cubs for free on WGN-Channel 9 among other local stations. Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts was audibly booed by fans at mere mention of the network at the convention kickoff Friday night.

The joint venture of the Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group has signed Chicago’s RCN and several other cable and satellite providers. But without Comcast onboard, the network could be inaccessible to about half of all cable viewers in the area when the Cubs play their first spring training game on Marquee’s opening day.