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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sorry: late. My laptop keeps shutting off unprompted. I think the heat disagrees with it. Or it's just tired of letting me inflict pain on Michigan sports teams. Either way.

I have received a number of concerned emails about the Big Ten Network's potential failure to exist this fall; some of these have relayed information that may help clarify the situation. Go, readers, go:


I have a guess on this "40 cable companies" claim:

I'm currently living in Japan for work and will miss the entire season. I'm looking at getting Slingbox at my parent's house in Michigan so that I can record and watch the games over here. Obviously, I need to know if my parent's cable provider will carry the Big Ten Network. It turns out that the cable provider in that small mid-Michigan city is the city itself. They control and maintain the lines and have a committee to choose the networks that are included in the package. I would estimate the total number of subscribers under this "cable company" to be less than 2,000 (city population of 10,000). I have no idea, but imagine that many small cities did this during the cable internet wave to attract residents (2-3 year span when big companies were only focused on large markets) and control prices. Anyway, since the Big Ten Network is claiming "40 companies" but only mentions DirecTV, I would guess that the remaining companies are similar to the city owned company I'm dealing with. (Not sure yet if they're carrying the Big Ten).

Speculation but a reasonable one: it's highly likely that the "40 companies" have all the reach of Earl Boykins.

One of the many, many Andrews/Anthonys to comment asked Chicago Comcast about the potential of adding the network and got this response:
Thank you for contacting Comcast Cable. Currently, there are no plans to
carry the Big Ten network at this time. However, when new programming
and products become available, we will notify Customer's via DCT
messaging, bill inserts, and direct mailers.

Thank you for choosing Comcast.
I love "thanks, go to hell" answers. I have read elsewhere on the internet that this is the standard response Comcast and other cable companies offer whenever anyone asks about any new channel, whether or not they end up carrying it, so Andrew's supplement to the Comcast response...
I'm sure you have received a lot of these, but here is info directly from Comcast's mouth when I submitted a question about the Big Ten Network last night. I live in Chicago, where the BTN is, like, based and all, and things look very, very dim in getting it on cable here. I would assume the response below would be the same for the large number of Comcast subscribers in Michigan. I also called to ask and the Comcast representative I talked to had not even heard of the BTN.

I also received a message on my digital cable that Comcast Chicago will be carrying CSTV soon, albeit on their pricey Sports and Entertainment digital tier. In the meantime, keep up the drumbeat against the BTN.
...may be a little pessimistic, but the whole calling-and-not-even-having-heard-of-it is disturbing.

Mike Brennan has something more hopeful:

I just spoke with Bill Martin on the phone. I'm going to be in touch with Mark Silverman of the Big 10 Network tomorrow. My gripes against the channel arise from your analysis (along with that of the other U-M blogger that addressed this) and aren't so much focused on the possibility of my cable rate going up a few dimes, but rather that there's a chance that this extra channel might result in me being unable to watch some Michigan football games. Judging from the general tenor of your replies and the message board threads, it seems that most people are with me on this.

So he started to explain about how it won't raise cable rates so much before I stopped him and explained that we don't care about a small rate hike; we just want to be sure we'd have the games available on basic cable. At that point he completely and unequivocally assured me that, before the season begins, all the major cable providers will be on board and that the Big 10 Network will absolutely be a basic-cable channel. He said the lawyers have told him that this will go down to the final days before a deal is struck, but that a deal will absolutely be struck.

I feel a lot better. He said they're talking about a monthly boost of $.75 to the cable bill, but this is a small price to pay considering that I would actually watch this channel a lot all year.

Hope this is useful to you. Let me know if you have any questions.
So... hurray? We can expect brinksmanship on the part of both sides as they try to work out a deal; Bill Martin insists a deal will get done. If it does, I get to retract all the nasty stuff I said this summer. This I will gladly do if the reward is a Big Ten Network I can watch, preferably one with lots of hockey. Clarification: road hockey games.

Mike's email makes me feel a little better, but waiting for this eleventh hour deal will be at least mildly nerve-wracking. Only mildly? Well, the network kicks off with its two Ohio State games: Akron and Youngstown State (via SMQB). Expect our riveting clash with Eastern Michigan to be one of our two featured, um, contests.


Anonymous said...

It seems very strange to me that anyone looking to make a deal would say publicly that a deal will absolutely get done, it may come down to the last minute, etc. I'm still very concerned about it.

Anonymous said...

We should start some kind of petition for Comcast to carry the BTN on basic cable.

Anonymous said...

Let's start a petition to get some hackers broadcasting this in live feeds from the stadium using their iphone with camera...oops... i mean another piece of hardware