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Marquee Sports Network’s latest move: Cubs TV channel names MLB Network’s Michael Santini their new programming and production boss

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 11/5/2019 By Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune
a man holding a stop sign at night: Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster talks with a reporter after a press conference to announce new David Ross as the new Cubs manager.\n © John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster talks with a reporter after a press conference to announce new David Ross as the new Cubs manager.\n

With 109 days to go until the Cubs’ first spring training game, the team’s new TV channel on Tuesday named Michael Santini its senior vice president of programming and production.

Santini comes to Marquee Sports Network, the joint venture of the Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group set to launch in February, from MLB Network, where he most recently served as vice president of production.

“We’re thrilled to have Mike Santini join Marquee Sports Network,” Michael McCarthy, Marquee’s general manager, said in the announcement. “Mike has operated the best baseball production unit in the business for years. We have no doubt he’ll give Cubs fans what they want and deserve as head of programming and production at Marquee.”

Both Michaels — McCarthy and Santini — previously worked at New York’s MSG Network.

McCarthy, who worked his way up through the ranks to become president of MSG Network, also served as vice chairman and chief executive of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and chief operating officer of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks before becoming a Cubs consultant in August 2018. He was officially installed at Marquee this spring.

Santini, who was part of the launch team at MLB Network in 2009, spent 20 years at MSG Network in a variety of production roles.

“To be selected to lead programming and production for Marquee Sports Network is beyond exciting,” Santini said in an announcement. “MLB Network was a challenging, fluid and fast-paced environment. I am honored and grateful to have that same opportunity this time in Chicago.”

Santini will be responsible for managing Marquee’s original content, including live programming, pregame and postgame shows, overseeing on-camera talent, production staff and network crew members.

Marquee intends to launch in time to carry all Cubs spring training games, as well as the roughly 150 regular-season games the team controls (as opposed to the games Major League Baseball doles out to ESPN and Fox).

So far, Sinclair has announced Marquee carriage deals only with AT&T – whose platforms include DirecTV, U-verse and AT&T TV – and Charter Communications.

It’s not known what stage negotiations are with other major local carriers, such as Comcast’s Xfinity.

The Cubs have been talking about launching Marquee since the Ricketts family acquired the team in 2009.

Before they could launch the channel, however, they had to wait out the final decade of a 15-year partnership with the White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks and Comcast’s NBCUniversal in what eventually was known as NBC Sports Chicago, which concluded at the end of September.

The remaining four partners launched a reconstituted NBC Sports Chicago on Oct. 1. It has carriage deals in place with more than 50 service providers. The notable holdout to date has been Dish Network, whose platforms include Dish and Sling.


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