Big Ten Network battle boils

January 31, 2008
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The good news for Indiana and Purdue basketball fans is that there are a slew of games scheduled to be aired on a channel Indiana cable television operators actually carry.

The bad news is the Big Ten Network and Comcast Cable don’t appear any closer heading into February to reaching an agreement to bring the new channel to a broader audience than they were this fall. BTN officials still want the channel on an expanded basic package, and Comcast officials say it should go on a sports tier.

Comcast confirmed they’re losing subscribers angry at not being able to watch their favorite college hoops team. “But it’s not been a mass exodus,” said Comcast spokesman Mark Apple. “It has not been enough of a loss to move us off our negotiating position.”

Comcast is tracking the loss, Apple said, but wouldn’t disclose how many subscribers have jumped ship due to the BTN situation.

At least six, and probably nine of IU’s last 12 regular season games will be on network TV or ESPN. For Purdue, at least six of 11 games can be seen on a channel your cable provider carries. Fear not, the Big Ten men’s tournament will be aired on ESPN.

BTN officials continue urging fans that want to see the games to call to urge their cable company to carry the channel on a basic tier. “There’s a very vocal minority calling for these games,” Apple said.

He expects that cry to die down considerably in the next month. "After basketball season, there’s not much on [the BTN] that most people will want to watch,” Apple said.

So tell us, who will be the eventual winners and losers in this battle?
  • Fans are the losers. The elderly. The handicapped. Poor.
  • Consumers will be the winners if Comcast holds it ground and the BTN gives in.

    There is no need to add to everyones bill for the few that want to watch reruns of lacrosse all summer. If the BTN cared about the fans, they would agree to be in a sports package so the people who want it could get it, or agree to be carried for free on the basic tier. If their product is good enough, they would make up for the lost revenue from forcing people to pay with advertising.
  • If everyone would just get a satellite they wouldn't have this problem. Just go that route and that will send a message to Comcast. It's not any more money either.
  • Ben,

    I might agree if not for the fact that any Comcast owned station Comcast requires carriage on basic. Check out the new Comcast sports station in Portland that covers the Trailblazers. Any other cable system up there has to put the channel on basic. Comcast will not allow the station on a sports tier. Also notice that all of Comcast regional sports stations are on basic. THEY LIE! What a funny answer, ask Mark Apple why Comcast requires basic coverage for the Portland Station. I heard him once say will the NBA is a different situation. Huy????

    Don't be fooled by Comcast lies. They are upset that Fox got the deal with the Big Ten and not them.
  • Jerry,

    While I see what you are saying, I would hardly characterize Comcast as liars. They did not invent the BTN, and they certainly did not invent their pricing structure. I believe Comcast has its faults, but here I don't see where they have any other option. As a subscriber, and with a degree from two Big Ten Schools, there is no way I'm paying the outrageous fees they want to charge for what is, in essence, a regional network with zero redeeming qualities after the two major sports seasons. I agree with Ben on that one.

    What makes the BTN think they can charge more per subscriber than any network other than ESPN? Sure Comcast puts forth its own channels with favorable placement, but who wouldn't. If BTN would drop its fee requests considerably, or agree to the Sports tier, there would be no controversy. Its about money, plain and simply, and both sides want to maximize it. However, BTN has little leverage to ask for the fees they want. I'm all for Comcast and any toher cable carrier sticking to its principles and saying no
  • Wake up people~!!!!...How many of you College Football and BBall fans watched IU or Purdue on Channel 4 before...probably most of you...did we pay more for that?!...Granted, there won't be much to watch during the summer on BTN, but Football season will be here sooner than we think...Come on BTN and Comcast, you're just punishing us the fans and consumers...Suck it up and carry the BTN and BTN don't be so greedy, either...who loses, we do!
  • The losers are the fans, Comcast, and the Big Ten. Yes, the Big Ten is probably the biggest loser because they are upsetting their fans. I have held off on renewing my John Purdue club membership over this. The only winners in this are the bar owners where I and others that want to watch our teams but won't switched are forced to go. At least the BTN could do what the Horizon League does and put them on the internet. Of course, the resolution is horrible on the Horizon League website. The last two Wednesday nights I have paid over $50 for dinner and beers for two that would have cost me $10 at home if the BTN would let Comcast put the BTN on a sports package. I would rather watch a few commercials (or surf for 3 minutes) and pay a premium package fee than switch to a dish and have to cut down several 60 feet tall trees, some of which are in my neighbor's yard.
  • Anyone who sticks with comcast is the loser. They are more expensive than other carriers, have horrible customer service....the list goes on.

    AT&T Uverse and satellite carries offer BTN on the base package, why cant comcast? The others have obviously negiated and paid for it, they should as well. It should not be extra. I get a slew of channels included that I dont want...why are those not broken out separately?

    You cant blame the conference for trying to make a buck. Look at nfl network, etc that are included. Any cable carrier worth their salt will offer it to customers to keep them as subscribers.
  • This is a battle between Comcast and FOX Sports for sports content. The Big Ten fans and the Big Ten Network are suffering as a result. You are either a content provider (FOX,) or transmit and distribute content. Comcast want's both - greedy!

    Why else does Comcast refuse to provide FOX Sports Indiana (Pacers) in Fort Wayne, but provides Comcast Mid-West with the Chicago Bulls!

    SWITCH to Verizon FIOS (fiber optic) TV! I just did and I now get FOX Sports Indiana, ESPN U, NFL Network, and SOON (@April 1st) THE BIG TEN NETWORK on basic Verizon FIOS TV !

    No I am not a Verizon employee, but I loved taking my cable box back to Comcast and telling them, no BGTN, adios... Verizon ROCKS!
  • I left Comcast for Direct TV in December and am not looking back. Got the BTN which ain't as great as touted and IU is so-so but I am saving $$$ and I get a digital broadcast.
  • BTN is essentially pay-per-view; no different than watching boxing match.
    What is different is that 10 of the 11 Big Ten school are public institutions that receive public money. additionally, they do not pay property tax.( So, the same schools that count on taxpayer support are wanting them to pay to watch the university team)

    These are not privately-owned teams that can do as they choose. these are publicly-funded schools that gained legions--millions of fans--of followers over the years, who are not even graduates. Now that fan base threatens to be decreased because the university presidents, athletic directors and board of trustees see an opportunity to benefit. Not going to happen, folks. Way too many fans who won't pay $360 ($29 per month, plus hook-up fees) to watch their team play 6 or 10 times a year. (Hell,even Notre Dame's exclusive football deal is on national TV, not pay-per-view. Hoosier fans, and all others, time to revolt.Write the respective board of trustees and the university presidents. (meanwhile we will watch what CBS and ESPN have to offer on the Hoosiers.)
  • Ah, comcasthater...I don't begrudge the sentiment that Comcast is is. But, since you bring up he NFL Network, you should know that they have also attempted to strong-arm the cable companies into carrying their particular product. And, just so you know how greedy they are, once they stared putting games on the network, they went from asking for 20 cents per subscriber to 70 cents! All to try to create an outrage to artificially boost demand. This is exactly what the BTN has done, but they have asked for more! What would you expect Comcast, or any other cable carrier, to do? Just cave in and carry it, but lose big money in the process. Again, I'm not a huge Comcast fan, but I completely agree with their thinking.

    Not everyone can get Uverse, either. And as for switching to satellite, it is a very real fact that not everyone can get satellite if you don't have the right southwestern clear view. So, its not as simple as switching. There is an entire other argument against the NFL Sunday Ticket, which further increases the NFL greed, but that's an argument for a different post. Suffice to say, the BTN is trying to get its piece of the pie by emulating the NFL. Unfortunately, its a niche product that is not relevant outside the Midwest. Until the BTN backs down, cable carriers aren't going to carry it. As a fan, I don't like it, but I don't blame them.
  • Why doesn't the BTN allow Comcast to place on the Sports tier package as a starting point? That would give those who want the BTN the opportunity to get it. Couldn't subscribers (mostly new subscribers) eventually put pressure on Comcast to include the BTN in the basic package down the road?

    It's too bad cable subscribers don't have an a la carte option. As a fan of Big Ten sports, I'd pay extra for BTN. If I could get rid of Lifetime or The Food Network and save 10 cents a month, I would!
  • This is a classic Supply & Demand lesson...too many games and too few viewers. They used to teach economics at Big Ten schools...Yes, some of us rabid fans would watch, but not enough to pay the freight and all the other hours of programming that are not football or basketball. We Purdue and IU fans couldn't even keep Channel 4 satisfied with their low cost structure. (It must not cost much to get Texas Tech games, either) Isn't it interesting that the Big Ten who has received millions from television rights would now start their own network to cut out the middle man. They know there's not enough demand to even put it on the sports tier, which is the logical starting point that we rabid fans would expect to buy. It's great posturing by two smart business entities, and there's a lot of money at stake. There are a lot of cheapies in the State of IN that want something for nothing. Let's keep buying tickets and supporting our teams in person until these two groups get realistic. If it's a viable business, the market will settle this.
  • In the end, BTN and Comcast are both trying to make money. I am not a fan of Comcast and usually would not side with them, but I think the majority of the blame falls on BTN. This is a channel that appeals to a small number of people when compared to Comcast's subscription list. BTN also wants quite a bit of money per subscriber for their network and that alone justifies their rightful placement on a sports tier.

    If the NFL Network is in a separate tier (and they have a national audience) then why would it make sense for BTN to be included in basic cable?
  • I think the Big Ten was unrealistic to charge a per-subscriber fee to Comcast and then expect them to put it on the basic tier. But it goes beyond just Comcast vs. the Big Ten. If Comcast caves in to the Big Ten, then the ACC, SEC, Big East, etc. are going to expect the same treatment when they start up their networks. Comcast doesn't want to set a precedent it may come to regret.
  • I switched to satellite tv months ago for the Big Ten Network and I have not looked back since. My monthly bills are less and I receive many more HD channels. The rare occassions when the weather gets bad are the only times I wish I had cable.
  • The market will determine the ultimate result, which is the way it should be. If the BTN can get enough ad revenues without being on cable, then the current situation will continue. The NCAA, and by default, the Big Ten, are now billion-dollar industries, and a farm system for professional sports. If you like this fact, then continue to put pressure on one or the other to cave in. There is no emotional or altruistic motive here, this is strictly business. Those who thing otherwise are deluding themselves.
  • I love Big Ten basketball and football but I am not willing to switch from cable. Pressure should be placed on the Big Ten to resolve the matter. In protest I have scaled back all donations to Big Ten schools and I have advised those Big Ten foundations, which I supported in the past, why I have scaled back. If more of the you took the same approach, the problem would be quickly resolved.
  • At this point money and greed have ruined too many sports. The ultimate losers will be the Big Ten when prospective athletes aren't exposed to their games and decide they want to play for a conference that has broader exposure. The Big Ten has already shown it can't compete in football any longer.
  • Ultimately, the consumer is responsible. Everyone complains about the exorbitant salaries of professional athletes, yet many people continue to buy merchandise, tickets, & watch the games on television.
    The NCAA continues to inexorably change football & basketball rules and/or officiating to make them more like their professional counterparts, in order to make the games more amenable to advertisers, regardless of the effect on the average fan.
    Why did Willie Sutton rob banks? Because that's where the money was!
    Follow the money trail, and the intent and/or motivation of each entity involved is crystal clear.
  • Then there are those of us who have zero interest in sports -- professional, collegiate, or high school. We have no desire to watch BTN, or pay for BTN as part of a basic package. Just as we have no desire to have other expensive sports channels forced into basic cable package offerings. We are stuck with Comcast as the only viable high-speed broadband Internet provider. We do care about the quality of broadcast offerings from Comcast, and have been watching over time as Comcast moves higher value product offerings of interest to digital cable or specialty packages, and replace those channels with more shopping, religious, infomercial, etc. offerings. Why? Because of increasing revenue generation for Comcast, while lowering the cost of channel offerings. It's all about margins. Let BTN and Comcast work out their differences. However, maybe we should challenge our fairly useless State Legislature to investigate how much State money is spent at our land grant universities to pursue this BTN / Comcast battle. The legislators are probably more interested in a Big Ten game verses some other issue -- like property taxes.
  • Why are you cable subscribers so in love with cable? Did you study at Comcast U? Did you scream your head off when Comcast won the Big Ten? Did you pay Comcast thousands of dollars for an education or did Comcast give you a scolarship? Geez! It's a flipping utility company! Quit crying about it and just get a dish. I got mine on the day the BTN launched because I didn't want to take a chance on missing anything.

    By the way...I just watched MSU lose to Penn State, how was that UCLA game you watched on ESPN. I'd watch UCLA, but I'm glued to the BTN...they are talking football recruiting with Tom Lemming in studio. Yup, glad I didn't wait that utility company to provide coverage of my favorite team.

    OH about not being able to watch the games last year if you were out of the area and they were on ESPN+? Forgot about that one, eh?
  • I can't fathom why anyone would choose to remain a Comcast subscriber. The cable companies fought for the exclusive cable franchise system we have now, so let them deal with losing subscribers to the satellite providers. Anyone stupid enough to remain a cable subscriber deserves the inferior product they've chosen.

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