Comcast Strikes Big Ten Deal

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Comcast made it official Thursday, agreeing to a deal to carry the Big Ten Network, making it one of the first major MSOs to carry the college sports network.

News that the two were close to an agreement leaked out earlier this week in several published reports. According to sources familiar with both participants, the multi-year carriage deal is priced at about 70 cents per subscriber, per month.

According to the deal, Comcast will initially launch BTN as part of its expanded basic tier to promote the network in the eight states with universities in the Big Ten conference (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) beginning Aug. 15. The Philadelphia market will launch the promotional service on a broadly distributed digital tier.

In the spring of 2009, Comcast may elect to move the network to a broadly distributed digital tier in most of those systems. Those customers also will have access to live Big Ten games and events in high-definition, Big Ten programming via the cable company’s video-on-demand platform and conference-related content via Comcast.net.

Outside of the Big Ten states, Comcast has the option of not carrying the channel or putting it on any level of service, including a specialized sports tier.

The deal will give BTN its biggest carriage boost—Comcast has about 5 million customers in the Big Ten states. With the deal, BTN will be available in about 35 million cable and satellite TV homes.

“We are very pleased with the agreement we have reached with the Big Ten Network to carry hundreds of live Big Ten events,” Madison Bond, Comcast’s executive vice president of content acquisition, said in a statement. “We will be providing our customers with Big Ten programming through our signature video-on-demand service, and will have lots of highlights, replays, scores and more through Comcast.net so fans can keep pace with Big Ten action whenever they want to.”

BTN already has deals with RCN, WOW, Insight Communications, DirecTV and Dish Network. The sports network has yet to reach deals with Time Warner Cable and Mediacom Communications.

“This agreement allows us to reach many more Big Ten fans with our programming because of the high concentration of Comcast subscribers in Big Ten states. With the Comcast deal now in place, the Big Ten Network will be available to more than two-thirds of all homes in Big Ten Country,” BTN president Mark Silverman said in a statement.

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