Comcast Touts Big Ten Slate


Comcast wants football fans in its markets to know it will air plenty of games even if it doesn’t add the new Big Ten Network, which launches Friday.

The nation’s largest cable operator -- with systems in Big Ten states Michigan, Illinois and Indiana -- said it posted on a schedule of Big Ten contests slated to air on a variety of broadcast and cable networks this season. The games include Ohio State at Michigan, Michigan at Michigan State, Ohio State at Penn State, Purdue at Minnesota and Ohio State at Minnesota.

What networks will air those games and a total of about 150 college football contests from major conferences such as the SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, Big East, and ACC? They’re ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2, CBS, NBC, CSTV, Fox, Fox Sport Net and Comcast SportsNet, according to the operator’s release.

Comcast also is touting 100 National Football League contests, even as DirecTV is promoting its exclusive Sunday Ticket pay-per-view package of NFL games and Dish Network is touting its own football offerings, which don’t include Sunday Ticket or Big Ten Network action either.

Comcast also said in the release its “first priority is to protect our customers and to make the Big Ten Network available in the fairest way to all our customers. From the beginning, we have said we would like to carry the network and will make it available immediately as part of our Sports Entertainment Package. We simply can not allow Fox and the Big Ten to burden all of our customers - the vast majority of whom have no interest in Big Ten sports - with a $13 Big Ten tax.”

That $13 figure is roughly what Comcast would pay per subscriber in Big Ten markets, assuming a cost of $1.10 per customer per month in those core markets, a figure that’s been widely reported. Fox National Cable Sports Network president Bob Thompson said last week, though, that rate was never the figure quoted to Comcast.

Big Ten Network, co-owned and distributed by Fox Cable Networks, also wants broad carriage in core markets, while Comcast wants to add it to pay tier of sports services, as it has done with the NFL Network.

Thompson said last week Comcast probably won’t have a carriage deal with Big Ten Network at launch. Big Ten Network’s key distributors include DirecTV, AT&T and a reported 100 smaller systems, but it lacks deals with top cable operators (in core markets) Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Mediacom.