Comcast signs deal with Big Ten network

TV Arts

David
from the hollywood reporter

Big Ten, Comcast going long
Deal makes games available to 50 million homes
By Paul J. Gough

After almost a year in existence, the Big Ten Network is finally
getting a big-time cable distribution deal that will boost its
visibility in all but one of the conference's markets.

Comcast Corp. said Thursday that it will put the channel on expanded
basic in such Big Ten Conference areas as Illinois, Pennsylvania,
Michigan and Ohio beginning in August and running through at least
early 2009. Then the channel could go to what Comcast calls a broadly
distributed digital service following the football and basketball
seasons.

The deal would give the Big Ten Network 12 million homes in the Big
Ten region, up from 6 million. Nationally, it would go from 30 million
to almost 50 million potential homes. Comcast is said to be paying
about 70 cents per subscriber.

Despite what had been a sometimes contentious battle between Comcast
and the joint venture between the Big Ten Conference and Fox Cable
Networks, Fox National Cable Sports president Bob Thompson said the
two parties never stopped talking. In the end, he said, it was both
parties' willingness to be flexible that made the deal happen.

The flexibility can be seen in the per-sub price as well as the fact
that Fox was willing to let the channel go to a broadly distributed
digital service after its initial run as long as it met certain
benchmarks. The deal also will likely help to make the Big Ten case
with such other big MSOs as Time Warner Cable and Charter.

"It's a good template going forward in discussions with other
operators," Thompson said.

The Big Ten Network also will be available in Philadelphia on digital
and possibly available in other Comcast non-Big Ten markets on a
sports tier. The deal calls for HD, broadband, portable and wireless
rights as well as VOD of condensed games. The Big Ten Network, a joint
venture of the conference and Fox Cable Networks, already has
distribution pacts with DirecTV, Dish, Insight and many smaller units.

Meanwhile, NBC Sports and the University of Notre Dame have come to a
five-year deal to carry home Notre Dame football games through 2015.
NBC will have carried Notre Dame games for 25 years by the end of this
agreement.

Financial terms of the deal weren't announced, but NBC will air seven
home games and an additional game in primetime that will be played
elsewhere. That's up from six in the previous contract, which all have
been five-year deals.
                                            
Tony
On the one hand, I'm happy to be able to see the Big Ten games this year.  
On the other hand, I kinda wish Comcast hadn't given in.  I think, overall, 
it's much better for the industry that these vanity sports networks not be 
allowed to prosper.  Kil 'em young and get those games back on real 
channels.