Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The case of Big Ten vs Comcast vs ESPNU

More on this saga: One of the industry publications (Multichannel News) has another story. Big Ten Commissioner James Delany tries to play hardball (without Chris Matthews) as he wants Big Ten fans to switch to DirecTV if Comcast does not carry the network on basic cable in the Big 10 markets. Comcast has one third (1/3) of cable subscribers in Big-10 country.

Basic cable you say? Yes. He cites Comcast's own (you knew there would be this type of problems once carriers became content providers at the same time) mtn being carried on basic cable in SLC (salt lake city). The mtn is the network of the Mountain West Conference, produced in association with CSTV (now a CBS company). As you may recall Comcast is having problems themselves getting competitive cable providers to make this channel widely available in Mountain West cities/states. Isn't that special?

Comcast does seem to have a relationship with Fox Sports which is a co-owner of the Big Ten Network. They are already carrying three Fox College Sports channels, Fox Soccer, the spanish version of Fox Sports, Speed, as well as FSN+ (overflow channels). At the risk of introducing common sense to this "unsolvable problem", Fox College Sports (along with other FSN channels) could easily carry live and tape-delayed events from the Big Ten Network (BTN) on their three Fox College Sports channels in markets where the BTN network is not yet available. This could be an interim measure until BTN manages to find its way on more and more cable providers line-ups.

Comcast wants to put this channel on digital cable, and not just that, but on the Sports Tier, a digital cable package that costs an additional $5 per month and includes the likes of CSTV, Fox College Sports (three channels), NBA-TV, NFL, Fox Soccer, Speed, Tennis, Gaming (horse racing and such), and such. This of course may vary from market to market. This is exactly where Comcast wants to put ESPNU. And this is what is causing ESPNU not be carried on Comcast because ESPN wants to make it widely available. Apparently all the suits at Comcast and ESPN are unable to come up with a compromise solution that would make ESPNU available to millions of fans. Common sense is apparently not a required skill for business executives these days.

  • Every 2007 NCAA College Basketball Tournament game on DVD!

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