Chicago — Mark Silverman, president of Fox Sports National Networks and BTN, came out swinging Tuesday at Big Ten media days saying there has been no “substantive response” from Comcast regarding deal proposals from Fox.
And with that, Silverman said, Big Ten fans may be without coverage on the Big Ten Network. In April, Comcast decided to drop BTN in 29 states, outside of the Big Ten’s home markets. Not only is the BTN/Comcast agreement expiring, so is the agreement for all Big Ten games that air on FS1.
“BTN and FS1 have made proposal to Comcast dating back to February, and we’ve had no substantive response at all,” Silverman said.
He called this situation the “biggest challenge” the network has faced.
“Our 10-year agreement with Comcast expires at the end of August,” Silverman said. “A few months ago, BTN was removed from out-of-market cable systems on Comcast, which is the leading cable provider in the country.
“Upon learning of the impending removal, we immediately reached out to Comcast in an effort to keep the network on the air. Comcast was intent on dropping BTN and refused to listen to our plea. Unlike the usual scenario in these carriage disputes, there is no economic benefit to Comcast at all to do this and removed BTN from their systems outside the Big Ten area, which begs the question: Why did they do this?”
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Comcast, according to Silverman, is the primary cable provider in 10 of the 14 Big Ten markets – Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa don’t fall under that umbrella.
“Unfortunately, my fear is the removal of BTN in the outer market may just be the first step in Comcast’s plan to remove BTN from their systems everywhere, including the Big Ten home markets,” Silverman said.
A website — www.keepbigten.com — has been created to give viewers access to updated information on the situation and also provides opportunities to post comments to Twitter and find alternate ways to view the networks.
“We believe BTN and those Big Ten games that are on FS1 are in danger of not being carried on Comcast this coming season,” Silverman said. “So we are letting people know this to alert Comcast subscribers of this real possibility they may lose these games.
“The good news is that Comcast will be alone if they decide to drop BTN and those Big Ten games on FS1. These games are available on many different television providers, cable, satellite and the new Internet providers as well, and viewers will have no problem finding alternative providers in their area.”
A Comcast official in April told The Detroit News that the Big Ten Network would not be dropped in Michigan.
BTN and FS1 are expected to televise approximately 60 games this year, nearly two-thirds of all football games in the Big Ten, Silverman said. The two networks will air 22 of the first 24 games for those 10 schools that are in the Comcast markets.
A graphic that was provided showed the Nebraska at Michigan and Wisconsin at Iowa games on Sept. 22 both on FS1. Silverman clarified that the Wisconsin-Iowa game could end up on Fox, but Nebraska-Michigan currently is scheduled for FS1.
He clearly is frustrated with Comcast and the timing.
“I’m feeling with a little over five weeks left before football season, we should be much further along than we are,” Silverman said. “It’s extremely concerning. I’ve gone through this with them 10 years ago. And I can’t predict what their motivations are. I don’t know what their motivations are.
“We believe (we are) a strong value product, especially in our Big Ten area. We know we rate among the highest of all sports networks in our area. We believe we’ve given viewers and fans a lot of fantastic moments covering the Big Ten over the past 10 years, and we believe we should be in every single cable lineup across the country, including Comcast. And we hope to be able to do that.”