A Work in Progress

"(Negotiations) are changing all the time. We're talking. We are hopeful that they will consider coming off of their sports tier or nothing stance, which is where they are right now. We believe it is a very drastic and a very unreasonable position." -- Mark Slverman, President Big Ten Network

With slow-as-molasses negotiations, the Big Ten Network and cable giant Comcast have football fans grumbling.

Spartan fans will have Sept. 8 and Oct. 13 circled, the dates when the Green and White are slated to appear on the fledgling network. And they'll want to keep a pencil handy; it's possible the BTN could broadcast even more Michigan State games throughout the season.

Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman, whose network will launch Aug. 30, spoke with GSN recently to answer questions about the evolving situation.

GSN: How would you characterize negotiations at this time, a month before the football season begins?

SILVERMAN: "(Negotiations) are changing all the time. We're talking. We are hopeful that they will consider coming off of their sports tier or nothing stance, which is where they are right now. We believe it is a very drastic and a very unreasonable position."

GSN: What about Comcast's accusation that the BTN is a niche network without broad appeal?

SILVERMAN: "We believe that this network has a broad appeal. If you look at the ratings, which is as good of evidence as there is for what's niche appeal and what's broad. You know, the ratings for Michigan-Michigan State football and basketball games significantly exceed the ratings of most basic cable channels. When you call our channel niche, but then you have food channels, travel channels and fix-it channels and golf channels—to me that's a heck of a lot more niche than the broad appeal of Michigan State and Michigan sports."

GSN: What about the claim that the $1.10 monthly subscriber fee inside the Big Ten region is too high?

SILVERMAN: "The price of this network is about a third of what Comcast Regional Sports Networks go for. Comcast owns sports networks in Chicago, Philadelphia, the Baltimore region, and it's about one-third the cost. To give you a better sense (of the issue), Comcast is launching a new Portland Trailblazer network that'll have 50 Trailblazer games, nothing else. No baseball, no football, no college. Just 50 Trailblazer games, it's $2.00 a month. We're going to have about 120 just Michigan-Michigan State events, we're going to have close to 40 football and basketball games, just Michigan and Michigan State. You tell me how that price for what we're offering in the greater Michigan area, how that compare to others. I think it's quite fair.

"It's what we believe to be a very fair deal given how strong the programming we're going to have is. We feel with viewership and the fans and the ratings all really bear out how important this programming is and we feel having it on basic is absolutely where it should be. When you pay tour cable bill, you're going to get Fit TV and Shop NBC and Court TV and who knows how many shopping channels. This should be one of your top 75 channels in the state of Michigan."

GSN: Will the Big Ten Network air paid programming?

SILVERMAN: "We have no infomercials, we have no alcohol advertising and we have no gambling advertising. We're trying to build a network that we feel is proper to have the name Big Ten on it. You wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and tell me how many of those 70 channels you're getting in your basic bill that have infomercials on, and you know what—it's the vast majority. We're not going to be having any of that stuff on our network."

GSN: What is Comcast missing about the Big Ten Network and what should fans be aware of?

SILVERMAN: "I think they don't understand how embedded in the fabric of the Big Ten the appeal that these universities have in their communities, and how broad it is and how strong it is. I hope that fans can help express this desire for this type of programming . . . Consumers and subscribers calling to tell them is a lot more impactful than me sitting in another meeting trying to show them a chart to give evidence of why this should be in basic cable. We are talking, but calls (from the fans) will help. We still have a good few weeks to get something done."

This free story is just an example of the great content you'll receive everyday when you become a GSN insider. Why not sign up for a free 7-day trial right now?


Spartan Digest Top Stories