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Comcast continues to deny BTN a cable channel

Wed, 08/29/2007 - 9:14am
Traci Patterson

Comcast Corp. released its current Big Ten game schedule - with major match-ups on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and Versus - sending another strong signal to the Big Ten Network (BTN), which insists that it should be an expanded basic cable channel in the eight Big Ten states.

“The company’s first priority is to protect our customers and to make the Big Ten Network available in the fairest way to all our customers,” reads a prepared statement from Comcast. “From the beginning, we have said we would like to carry the network and will make it available immediately as part of our Sports Entertainment Package. We simply cannot allow Fox and the Big Ten to burden all of our customers—the vast majority of whom have no interest in Big Ten sports - with a $13 Big Ten tax.”

BTN, on its Web site, says that the Big Ten universities and their teams are a huge part of their respective states, and that this warrants the widespread distribution of the network within that footprint. But BTN also has broad appeal nationally, the network says, and will air 350-400 live events, as well as more than 600 hours of original programming - including academic and artistic content, and on-campus activities.

“It is true that not everyone will watch every program on the network, just as not everyone watches every expanded basic channel they receive, but the cable industry has decided that ‘bundling’ channels is the best way to offer consumers the widest-possible variety at the best price,” BTN’s Web site states. “In Big Ten Country, Big Ten Network should be one of those channels.”

Putting Fans First, a new coalition of sports fans and consumers uniting against the growing costs of sports programming, sides with Comcast.

The coalition’s Web site says: “Having sold its best games to ABC and ESPN, the Big Ten now wants to charge all of us - fans and consumers alike - hundreds of millions of dollars a year for games that are either ‘fifth tier,’ according to sports columnists, or that we used to be able to see for free. In fact, BTN would be the second-most-expensive national network!”
 
This fall, Comcast will provide about 100 NFL games and more than 150 college football games to its subscribers. Also, Comcast customers in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana with digital cable have access to Notre Dame on-Demand, and subscribers in Pennsylvania can watch Penn State on-Demand.

On Thursday, BTN will launch on AT&T’s U-verse service, and U-verse subscribers will have access to the network with the U100 programming package (or anything above), which starts at $44 per month.

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