A Conversation with Comcast about the Big 10 Network

In
the interest of getting to the bottom of why we can’t see the Hoosiers
and Boilers each week, we contacted our cable provider, Comcast.
 Here’s the resulting conversation, with Comcast’s replies in red:

Mark,

I’ve been a Comcast customer in Indiana for many years.  I co-author a blog about the Indianapolis Colts.  We’ve been discussing the
Big Ten Network debate on our blog for a couple months now. 

I understand that the stand-off is as much the Big Ten’s doing as it is
yours.  Probably more so.  But the B10 is winning because I will switch my
service over to DirectTV before I miss one IU basketball game.  I’ve already
been forced to miss the best IU football season in forever.  The bball team is
about to have a legendary year as well.  If you have any thoughts or comments
I’d be glad to post them on our blog (we have a good sized readership). 

Thanks and good luck,

Demond

Thanks for the
opportunity to comment.  Give me a call if you have any
questions.



Comcast has said from
the beginning that we want to make the Big Ten Network (BTN) available to our
customers.  Unfortunately Fox, which is negotiating on behalf of the Big Ten,
insists that we make the BTN available on Basic Cable.  Because the price of the
network is extremely expensive, we feel a better solution would be to put BTN on
our Sports Tier.  That
way, BTN would be available to customers who want the
programming but people who don’t like Big Ten sports wouldn’t be burdened with
the exorbitant cost.



 

In Indiana, it seems
that people are especially concerned about missing IU and Purdue basketball
games.  Having grown up in Indianapolis and being an IU alumnus, I understand
the concern.  Last year, every game except one was available on TV to Comcast
customers.  For decades, we’ve been able to watch virtually every game on television. 
We had a great system here, with WTTV and other broadcasters airing games that
weren’t available on CBS, ESPN or other cable networks.  The system wasn’t
broken and didn’t need to be fixed.  But the millions of dollars the Big Ten was
making off the television rights for those basketball games evidently wasn’t
enough.  By creating the BTN, the Big Ten hopes to generate hundreds of millions
of more dollars for its state-supported schools – all on the backs’ of cable and
satellite customers
.
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there.  If the Big Ten is successful in pushing this business model, you
can bet that the ACC, Big East, Big 12, PAC-10 and SEC will soon follow. 
And then, what’s to stop the NFL and other professional sports leagues
from making all games available on a Pay-Per-View basis?  Can you imagine
being forced to pay $100 or more to watch the Super Bowl?  The rising cost
of sports television is out of control, and currently accounts for
approximately one-third of the average cable bill.  We urge fans to say “Enough
is Enough” and join the Putting Fans First coalition at u003ca hrefu003d”http://www.puttingfansfirst.com/” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>www.puttingfansfirst.comu003c/a>.”u003c/span>u003c/font>u003c/p>

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Unfortunately, it won’t
stop there.  If the Big Ten is successful in pushing this business model, you
can bet that the ACC, Big East, Big 12, PAC-10 and SEC will soon follow.  And
then, what’s to stop the NFL and other professional sports leagues from making
all games available on a Pay-Per-View basis?  Can you imagine being forced to
pay $100 or more to watch the Super Bowl?  The rising cost of sports television
is out of control, and currently accounts for approximately one-third of the
average cable bill.  We urge fans to say “Enough is Enough” and join the Putting
Fans First coalition at www.puttingfansfirst.com
.”


 

Mark
Apple


Regional Vice President
– Communications & Public Affairs


Thanks for the response.  We’ll be printing this conversation as it is of
great interest to our readers.  Here’s some problems I see with what you are
saying:

1.  The argument that people that don’t like Big 10 sports shouldn’t have
to pay for the network seems a little weak for me.  I don’t like MTV, but I have
to pay for it.  ESPN is the single most expensive cable network there is, but
you make everyone pay for it (and for ESPN 2, Classic, and News).  I would
venture that in Indiana, the overwhelming majority of people that watch ESPN
would also watch, at least occasionally, the Big 10 Network.  It seems to me
that if you have ESPN on basic, that the Big 10 would get a big viewership there
too.

2.  You make an excellent point on the money grab by the Big 10.  There is
no question that they are trying to soak money out of someone.  The real target
of their efforts though is cable companies, not consumers.  I realize that in
the now (thankfully!) competitive world of cable providing, consumers have
choices and will angle away from companies that raise prices.  Thus Comcast
can’t really afford to jack up the price of their product.  Hence, the Big 10
wants you to pay them, without raising rates.  They are going after your
profits.  Why should the consumer care?  If you raise cable rates, people will
find other providers.

3.  You are correct about other conferences following suit, but the pro
leagues are limited in what they can do by federal anti-trust laws; they are
already getting attention from Congress over the issue.  Slippery slope
arguments don’t fly with me.  It isn’t your job to stand up for consumers.  It’s
your job to give people what they want.  Consumers can stand up for themselves. 
Don’t be disingenuous with us.  This is about money.  If you could negotiate a
better price with the Big 10 network, all your noble sentiments would go by the
board.  It’s phony and we know it.

4.  Please, I’m begging you to stop running the condescending ads on the
radio.  Any ad that says, “hey people you already get Michigan and OSU on Cable,
why do you need IU and Purdue?” is a bad ad.  I have to turn off the radio every
time they come on, because they guy talks down to people.  They are horrible
spots, and they are working against your ’cause’. 

I really do hope you guys win.  I’m not in favor of the Big 10 network as a
concept, but I don’t really care about your profit margins either.  Our readers
care about watching the Hoosiers and the Boilers, and we will do whatever it
takes to watch them.  If you plan on winning this war, you need better
arguments.  Convince us why it’s important that we don’t switch.  So far, you
are coming up short. 

I hope for a good reply from you guys on this.  We’ll be printing this
conversation either way.  I really do hope you win.

Tip off is just a month away,
 

Demond

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