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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I've been covering the upcoming Big Ten Network-Comcast deal at the Fanhouse (Fanhouse links, by the way, can always be found on the right sidebar). A deal is imminent, but there is a potential not so fast my friend. David Jones reports that the sunny 25 million additional subscribers reported by the Chicago Tribune a couple days ago is not quite right:

Whatever, while the cable carrier's people confirm a deal is close, the agreement as it stands now would place the BTN on expanded basic for only eight months -- the upcoming football and basketball season -- on a trial basis and only within the Big Ten's eight-state footprint. Comcast, they say, would then have the option of pulling the BTN off expanded basic and sticking it on the more expensive digital tier, possibly in a sports-channel package.
Bolded section mine, because WTF?

Jones makes it clear that moving the channel to digital basic is not a big deal. 80% of Comcast subscribers in the Big Ten Network footprint already have it, and those numbers will only increase. But the prospect of an eight-month test period followed by exactly the situation the Big Ten declared unacceptable is gross. It would be, essentially, caving. It would be this:

Another article, this one from, has contradictory information:
Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, would provide the Big Ten programming on a preview basis on its main channel package, then reposition the network to its more expensive digital tier next spring, after the football and basketball seasons, the sources say.

Customers with enhanced basic service would have to upgrade to digital when the preview ends to keep the Big Ten Network.

In the Philadelphia area, Comcast will skip the preview and carry the Big Ten Network right away on the digital tier, sources said.

Digital tier == no big deal. Sports package == disaster. Keep an eye peeled.