SBD/Issue 235/Sports Media

Time Warner Cable, Big Ten Network Agree To Carriage Deal

 
In a surprise deal, Time Warner Cable (TWC) has agreed in principle to carry the Big Ten Network (BTN) throughout the conference's territory. In a joint statement released late last night, the two sides said, "The pending agreement will ensure that Time Warner Cable's customers across those Big Ten states will have access to this Saturday's Big Ten college football season openers and all future BTN programming on an expanded basic level of service." The deal includes BTN's HD channel and VOD programming. No further details were released. A source with knowledge of the talks said the deal was still being finalized last night, but said it most likely would wind up looking a lot like the Comcast deal, which has the option to move the network to a digital service level next spring, and gives Comcast the option to provide BTN on any level of service outside of the Big Ten states. Earlier yesterday, sources on both sides described the negotiations as far apart. Over the weekend, TWC had offered to air two Wisconsin games on PPV -- an offer BTN immediately rejected. The deal ends a good couple of weeks for the network, Comcast launched BTN on August 15, and Mediacom last week agreed in principle to a deal. Time Warner's agreement leaves Charter as the biggest cable operator left without a deal (John Ourand, THE DAILY). In Cleveland, Doug Lesmerises notes TWC, "with roughly 2.5 million customers in the Big Ten region, ... had been by far the largest holdout after the network reached deals with more than 230 carriers." Northeast Ohio TWC Dir of Media Relations Heidi Mock said, "We worked hard to ensure that this was in the best interests of our customers. We believe this deal is fair" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/26).

Deal Would Allow Ohio State's Season
Opener To Be Seen In Columbus Area
IN TIME FOR KICKOFF: BTN VP/Communications Elizabeth Conlisk said that the deal "gives both sides enough time to prepare for the weekend." Conlisk: "It will take effect in time for everyone to catch the Big Ten action Saturday" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/26). BTN President Mark Silverman "as recently as Friday ... said he was pessimistic that a deal could be reached in time for the start of the football season" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/26). The BUSINESS FIRST OF COLUMBUS' Jeff Bell notes the agreement was reached five days after Ohio State AD Gene Smith "sent a letter to Buckeye fans, saying it was unlikely a deal would be completed before the football opener" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/26).

FALSE START? In Minneapolis, Judd Zulgad reports while BTN and Mediacom are nearing a carriage deal, Minnesota residents are not assured of getting the net, as there "remains an issue on exactly which Mediacom systems in Big Ten territories are going to receive the BTN." Mediacom Minnesota Regional VP Bill Jensen: "We're close (to an agreement), but just because there's a deal doesn't mean it's going to be seen in every Mediacom household" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/26).

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