MLB broadcasting primer: Where will Cubs, White Sox games appear this season?

When the Cubs created Marquee Sports Network to air their games, they said convenience was a factor. In the season before the network’s 2020 launch, local Cubs TV broadcasts appeared on ABC 7, NBC Sports Chicago, NBCSCH+ and WGN. And one game scheduled for ABC 7 was bumped to WCIU to accommodate the season finale of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise.”

So, yes, having about 150 Cubs games on the same channel is undoubtedly more convenient for fans. (It also is more expensive, but that’s another story.) The same holds true for the White Sox, who made NBCSCH their exclusive home in 2020 after airing a package of games on WGN for years.

But MLB has other plans for broadcasting games, and they are undoubtedly inconvenient for fans. Starting this season, games will appear nationally on Apple TV+, ESPN, Fox, FS1, Peacock and TBS. Add in your regional sports network of choice, and you could be watching your favorite team on seven platforms throughout the season. (ESPN+ and MLB.TV also will carry games but with local blackouts.)

To be sure, we’re not talking about a large number of games. The Cubs and Sox are scheduled for nine exclusive appearances away from Marquee and NBCSCH, respectively. The networks haven’t completed their broadcast schedules, so those numbers could increase.

This much we know: Fans do not like change, and that handful of affected games will become a problem if fans can’t find them.

What follows is a baseball broadcasting primer. It explains what’s in store on TV and radio for Cubs and Sox games, as well as what to expect from the multitude of national networks.

Marquee Sports Network (Cubs TV)

Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Jim Deshaies return as the primary tandem, with Taylor McGregor and Elise Menaker serving as field reporters. Radio voice Pat Hughes and Beth Mowins will fill in for Sciambi on select games. Hughes takes over Sunday, when Sciambi will call “Sunday Night Baseball” on ESPN Radio. Ryan Dempster, Doug Glanville, Rick Sutcliffe and Menaker will contribute in the booth and studio.

Former Cubs Cliff Floyd, who starred at Thornwood, and Cameron Maybin join the cast of studio analysts. Other returning contributors include Mark Grace, Fergie Jenkins, Sean Marshall, Gary Matthews, Chris Myers and Lou Piniella. Cole Wright returns to host shoulder programming, which includes a pregame show that begins an hour before game coverage.

Marquee also will show some new camera angles, including a robotic camera from the center-field scoreboard.

The Score (Cubs radio)

Hughes, Ron Coomer and Zach Zaidman are back. When Hughes is in the TV booth, Zaidman will fill in. Afternoon co-host Matt Spiegel will call a few fifth innings again. He and Mike Esposito also will handle some pre- and postgame shows. After performing well on spring-training broadcasts, Menaker could fill in for Coomer on a few games.

NBC Sports Chicago (Sox TV)

The Sox’ TV crew returns in full, with Jason Benetti and Steve Stone calling the action and Chuck Garfien, Ozzie Guillen and Frank Thomas working in the studio. Former Sox Scott Podsednik and Gordon Beckham will join the crew throughout the season. Radio voice Len Kasper will move to TV for 20-25 games, filling in for either Benetti or Stone.

For the season opener Friday in Detroit, NBCSCH will air a one-hour pregame show starting at 11 a.m. The network will do the same for the home opener Tuesday, with the show starting at 2 p.m. Normal pregame shows are 30 minutes.

ESPN 1000 (Sox radio)

Kasper and Darrin Jackson are back in the booth, and Connor McKnight will resume hosting the pre- and postgame shows. McKnight also will handle play-by-play when Kasper is on TV. In addition to his NBCSCH games, Kasper is scheduled to call five games for Fox, including four with the Sox. ESPN 1000 will continue its two-hour “White Sox Weekly” show throughout the season. The Sox’ radio network expanded to a record 25 affiliates across eight states.

Apple TV+

Apple is making its games FREE to anyone with internet access without the need for a subscription – for a limited time. Apple’s “Friday Night Baseball” doubleheaders begin this week with Mets-Nationals and Astros-Angels. The games will be available on devices where Apple TV+ can be found, including iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple TVs, smart TVs, gaming consoles and cable set-top boxes.

Apple’s deal is exclusive, meaning the Cubs and Sox won’t appear on Marquee or NBCSCH, respectively, when their games are selected. In the first half of the season, those games are:

Next Friday: Rays at Sox, 6 p.m.May 6: White Sox at Red Sox, 6 p.m.May 13: Cubs at Diamondbacks, 8:30 p.m.June 17: Sox at Astros, 7 p.m.June 24: Cubs at Cardinals, 7 p.m.

ESPN

The network revamped its “Sunday Night Baseball” TV booth, moving in play-by-play voice Karl Ravech and analyst Eduardo Perez and hiring analyst David Cone, who calls the Yankees for YES. Reporter Buster Olney is the only returnee. The Cubs and Sox are scheduled for “SNB” once each so far: The Cubs host the Dodgers on May 8, and the Sox visit the Yankees on May 22.

Hoping to duplicate the success of its Manningcast for “Monday Night Football,” ESPN paired Yankees TV voice Michael Kay and former “SNB” analyst Alex Rodriguez for an alternate presentation of select games on ESPN2, starting Sunday. Neither the Cubs nor Sox are scheduled to appear on the Kay-Rod show.

Fox/FS1

With Joe Buck heading to ESPN to call “Monday Night Football,” Dodgers TV voice Joe Davis reportedly will be Fox’ lead voice and call the World Series. He figures to join John Smoltz on many of the network’s 17 Saturdays of regionalized prime-time games, the first of which is May 28. Fox will air Cubs at Sox that night, with Kasper on the call.

The Cubs are scheduled for four more appearances on Fox: June 4 against the Cardinals, June 11 at the Yankees, July 2 against the Red Sox and Aug. 11 against the Reds in the “Field of Dreams” game. The Sox are set for two other games on Fox, which also will be called by Kasper: July 23 against the Guardians and July 30 against the Athletics.

The Cubs and Sox will make multiple appearances on FS1, but those games are not exclusive.

Peacock

NBC’s streaming service will air 18 games exclusively on Sunday mornings, beginning with the White Sox’ game May 8 in Boston, which will start at 10:30 a.m. It’s the only game of the package that will be simulcast on NBC. All other games will be available only on Peacock, which is included in most Comcast customers’ plans. The Sox make one more appearance, Aug. 21 in Cleveland, and the Cubs make just one, July 24 in Philadelphia. Both games are scheduled for 11 a.m.

TBS

After carrying Sunday afternoon games in the second half for years, TBS will air a full season of non-exclusive games on Tuesday nights. The network released its schedule through June; the Sox will appear June 7 against the Dodgers. Former Thornton Fractional South and UIC star Curtis Granderson is part of TBS’ pre- and postgame show panel. Brian Anderson and Bob Costas will share play-by-play duties, with Ron Darling and Jeff Francoeur serving as analysts.

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