BTN Not Near Time Warner Deal

With its first season of broadcasting football now concluded, the Big Ten Network had president Mark Silverman and its army of studio analysts discuss numerous topics in a conference call Tuesday. Among the subjects discussed was the progress of negotiations between the network and major cable companies and Ohio State's chances at reaching the BCS title game.

More than 30 million homes, scattered mostly across the Midwest, have access to the Big Ten Network, a fact that helped it become the first cable channel to be available to that many subscribers within 30 days in the history of television.

For those not among that group, the wait might not be coming to an end anytime soon.

That holds especially true for Time Warner Cable subscribers, which includes much of the state. The cable behemoth is the largest cable distributor in the state, with more than 2 million subscribers sprinkled throughout Ohio and more than 600,000 in the Columbus area. The operator has not carried the network since its Aug. 30 debut, and BTN president Mark Silverman said that it is not currently in negotiations with Time Warner.

In a conference call Tuesday, Silverman added that negotiations with other cable giants Comcast, Charter and Mediacom are ongoing.

"Obviously we have some distribution holes we need to fill up regarding particularly the four largest cable companies in the region," Silverman said. "We are in talks currently with Comcast and Mediacom and Charter. We are still far apart on those deals. They are not looking likely that they'll be done this year, but we are talking. With Time Warner, we have not had conversations of any substance for several months now."

Silverman said the same thing to BSB regarding a lack of negotiations with Time Warner during a late-October interview, a claim that at the time was refuted by Time Warner Columbus-area spokeswoman Judy Barbao.

Given that the two sides cannot even agree on whether or not they are in talks, it's not hard to see why a deal has not been done and that one does not appear on the immediate horizon.

That leaves much of the Columbus area and Ohio in the dark. During football season, the Big Ten Network broadcast four Ohio State football games – contests against Youngstown State, Akron, Kent State and Wisconsin – and at least 11-15 men's basketball games will end up on the network, including 7-11 conference games. At least eight women's basketball games, two men's hockey games and numerous other Ohio State sporting events are scheduled to be telecast.

Columbus-area cable providers Wide Open West and Insight Communications have picked up the network, which is also available Buckeye CableSystem, DirecTV, Dish Network and the AT&T U-verse service. WOW, Insight and Buckeye Cable all have the network available on their extended basic broadcast tier, which continues to be one of the stumbling blocks between the BTN and the major cable operators.

"We're still seeking expanded basic coverage in our deals," Silverman said. "Everything else other than expanded basic – as I've talked about before – is negotiable. Every deal that we've done so far in our footprint is carrying us in expanded basic, and that is the level of coverage that we feel the network should be on."

During the football season, the BTN televised 41 games, including 38 in high definition, 20 of which involved Big Ten teams that were ranked or receiving votes in the top 25 polls. Silverman said the network will continue to provide football programming through the bowl season and plans to also broadcast some recruiting coverage.

Buckeye Thoughts
After Silverman updated the progress of negotiations with cable operators, the Big Ten Network's football analysts, including studio host Dave Revsine and analysts Gerry DiNardo, Howard Griffith and Glen Mason, discussed a variety of topics about the first year of football covered by the channel.

One of the topics broached was Ohio State's current standing of fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings and whether, given the quality of OSU's loss to a 9-3 Illinois team that will be playing in a New Year's Day bowl, the Buckeyes should be further up the standings. DiNardo talked first and said he believes that Ohio State, which trails LSU, Kansas, Missouri and West Virginia, should jump the Mountaineers if it comes down to the two teams for the final spot in the title game.

"I believe if LSU loses and someone wins out in the Big 12, then it should be the Big 12 champion and Ohio State. I think Ohio State is a better team than West Virginia," DiNardo said. "I think Ohio State is in the conversation and it certainly is in our conversation every day."

Mason, a former Buckeye player and coach, added that this year, the Big Ten's decision to not play during the final two weekends of the season could help the conference. A year ago, Michigan dropped out of the top two because of impressive wins by Florida during the season's final two games, but this year, the Buckeyes could be helped by losses from above.

"If Kansas beats Missouri and then let's say loses to Oklahoma, which would be a quality loss too, because of the lateness of the loss would almost certainly knock them out," Mason said. "I think Ohio State is in a good position."

However, Mason addressed the point that it isn't fair that OSU's late loss hurts it more than LSU's earlier defeat at the hands of Kentucky.

"Fair is where you buy a pig in August, in most discussions," Mason said.


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