Comcast Nears Big Ten Deal


Comcast Corp. is close to a deal to carry Big Ten Network, making it one of the first major MSOs to reach an agreement with the college sports network.

According to executives familiar with the negotiations, Comcast would carry a preview in August of Big Ten college football and basketball games in eight states that are part of the college conference, after which they would have the option to move it to a digital tier in the spring.

Outside of the Big Ten states, Comcast would have the option of not carrying the network at all or carrying it on a sports tier. All in all, an agreement would boost the total carriage of the Big Ten channel from about 30 million customers to about 35 million customers.

Pricing for the network is expected to be between 70 cents and 80 cents per subscriber, said an executive familiar with the negotiations. That, the executive said, is about 40% less than what the BTN was originally asking.

While negotiations are ongoing and a final deal could ultimately look different, it appears that the parties have cleared up most of the past roadblocks to an agreement. Back in March, the two were said to be close to an agreement after they apparently agreed on digital basic carriage for the network.

Big Ten Network launched in August 2007 but has had difficulty securing carriage with cable operators. While the network—jointly owned by Fox National Cable Sports Networks and the Big Ten Conference—has deals with satellite giants DirecTV and Dish Network—and other smaller cable operators and overbuilders like RCN, WOW and Insight Communications, it has yet to reach deals with other MSOs like Time Warner Cable and Mediacom in the eight-state territory.