Big Ten Network Scores Insight Deal

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The Big Ten Network has added depth to its distribution roster, finalizing a carriage deal with Insight Communications the day before the fledgling service kicks off.

The agreement, details of which were not disclosed, calls for Insight to carry Big Ten Network on its Classic service (its version of analog basic) in Columbus, Ohio and Evansville, Ind. Moreover, the operator’s Digital 2.0 service (digital basic) will offer the network in its Kentucky markets of Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and the northern part of the state. All told, Insight said the service would be available to some 640,000 customers.

Sources familiar with the pact indicated that the license fee was consistent with the terms Big Ten has been seeking: $1.10 per month per subscriber in the seven Midwest states and Pennsylvania housing the 11 Big Ten conference members — Ohio and Indiana fall under the category. Conversely, Kentucky falls outside of the conference realm: in those states, Big Ten has been seeking license fees of 10 cents per subscriber per month.

It should be noted that the pact, first reported Wednesday by The SportsBusiness Daily, does not cover systems that are part of Insight’s 50-50 partnership with Comcast. The parties have agreed to split their holdings with the nation’s largest cable operator receiving more than 680,000 customers in Illinois and Indiana. When the transaction, which is expected to close later this year, is finalized Comcast will gain subs in Rockford/Dixon, Quincy/Macomb, Springfield, Peoria and Champaign/Urbana, Ill. The latter is home to conference member the University of Illinois. In Indiana, Comcast will add customers in Anderson, Lafayette/Kokomo and Bloomington, the home to Indiana University Hoosiers.

Comcast has been adamant that Big Ten should be positioned on a sports tier, a stance shared by Time Warner Cable, which also owns systems within the conference’s footprint. For its part, Time Warner is among the companies participating in an auction to purchase Insight’s systems that will carry Big Ten Network.

Bob Thompson, president of Fox National Cable Sports Networks, which co-owns the service along with the member schools, said last week that he was pessimistic about securing a deal with Comcast before the channel’s Aug. 30 launch.

Big Ten Network, which will offer fans 39 football games, 140 regular-season basketball games, more than 55 women’s basketball games, Big Ten Championships, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, baseball, wrestling and other NCAA championship sports action, has carriage deals with DirecTV, AT&T’s U-Verse TV and 100 smaller Midwest cable and municipal providers.

“We are pleased that we have reached a reasonable agreement with the Big Ten Network,” Insight CEO Michael Willner said in Wednesday’s announcement. “We know that our customers who are college sports fans will be very excited to watch their favorite teams, starting this Saturday when Buckeye fans can watch Ohio State take on Youngstown.”

Added Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman: “We’re happy to add Insight to our growing list of distribution partners. Insight is a leading distributor in several key communities in the Midwest, so we are especially pleased that their customers will be able to watch all of the Big Ten games.”

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