Big Ten Network, Comcast near carriage deal
Posted: March 10, 2008
After a flurry of backroom deals, the Big Ten Network appears poised to land its most significant carriage deal to date, as top executives from Comcast and the network have agreed on the framework of an agreement, according to sources from both sides.
A signed deal could still be weeks, or even months, away, as lawyers from both sides hammer out the specifics. Snags still could develop, but sources are optimistic that a deal will get done.
Comcast has about 5.8 million subscribers in the Big Ten footprint, including in Chicago and Detroit. Comcast also has clusters of subscribers in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, key parts of Big Ten country.
BTN is now in about 30 million homes.
Comcast agreed to launch the conference network on expanded basic through most of the Big Ten Conference's eight-state region, as much as 94 percent of it, according to one source. Previously, Comcast was adamantly against launching on expanded basic to such a wide area.
Meanwhile, Big Ten Network relaxed its demand to launch the channel on expanded basic everywhere in the eight-state market. The channel will allow Comcast the flexibility to place it on digital basic in various markets within the footprint, including Philadelphia.
The BTN deal could have been sparked by Fox Sports Net's move to secure the rights to the Detroit Pistons for FSN Detroit, according to sources with direct knowledge of the talks.
Comcast supported FSN's move to pick up the Pistons rights because it meant that two of the cable operator's biggest competitors -- AT&T and EchoStar -- would not get them, according to sources with knowledge of the talks. AT&T and EchoStar were in the mix, trying to pick up those rights and launch a new regional sports network in the market, which Comcast would have had to carry at, probably, more than $1 per subscriber per month.
It's not known how much Comcast will pay for carriage. BTN had been charging a little less than $1 a subscriber a month.
While Comcast appears closer than ever to a deal with BTN, sources say Time Warner Cable, BTN's other big cable holdout, is not close to a deal with the channel.http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn...c.php?t=378359