Cover, too: No Cubs games, but NBCSCH will ‘be all over’ team
NBC Sports Chicago isn’t carrying Cubs games anymore, but it plans to have plenty of Cubs coverage.
“We are going to be all over the Cubs,” NBCSCH senior vice president and general manager Kevin Cross said.
NBCSCH was the Cubs’ cable home since the 2005 season, when it was called Comcast SportsNet. The Cubs launched their own channel, Marquee Sports Network, in February after NBCSCH relaunched in October as the exclusive home for Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox games.
The network’s mission has been to cover all Chicago teams, whether it carries their games or not. By the look of its staffing, it will place as much of an emphasis on the Cubs as it can.
It hired former Chicago Sun-Times beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer to lead its Cubs coverage and added former Oklahoma City Thunder beat writer Maddie Lee as a reporter. Though their work will be seen mostly on the network’s website, they’ll make appearances on “Baseball Night in Chicago” and “SportsTalk Live.”
And NBCSCH still has the Mr. Cub of media, “SportsTalk Live” host David Kaplan, who signed a multiyear contract with the network about a year ago.
“We committed to Kaplan because we want to have someone who is plugged into both the Cubs as a team but also the Cub fans,” Cross said. “So I’m happy with the Cubs content team that we’ve built. Our strategy has always been to build content teams around the teams in our market.
“TV is super-important to us. It’s still the No. 1 medium for getting content. But one of the things that we’ve done over the past decade is we’ve tried to have a multiplatform approach.”
The question is whether fans will turn to NBCSCH for Cubs content when there’s another channel dedicated to it. Cross knows fans will go where the games are, but he wants his network’s coverage to be a draw. Still, he doesn’t see a rivalry brewing with Marquee.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I believe that our main priority when it comes to televising the games — I’m not talking about shoulder programming — is to serve the fan that is watching that game. And for us, we’re talking to the White Sox fan.
“I don’t really see it as a competition. If they were televising the same game we were televising, I think that probably I would view it a little differently. But I think the fan bases tend to be different from each other. That’s part of it right there.”
NBCSCH doesn’t have Cubs games anymore, but it does have the Mr. Cub of media, David Kaplan.