Comcast-Big Ten Network fight could keep football games off some TVs

July 26, 2018 GMT

The Big 10 Network just threw down a yellow flag.

Mark Silverman, president of Big Ten Network, blitzed Comcast on Tuesday morning, warning fans of college sports that the cable company may pull the channel from its systems this season. It has even launched a website, Keep Big Ten.

Big 10 Network’s 10-year agreement with Comcast expires at the end of August. So does the agreement for all Big Ten games that air on Fox Sports 1.

Silverman said he thinks it’s in Comcast’s playbook to pull the plug on Sept. 1: Comcast already has removed Big Ten in out-of-market areas that don’t have a Big 10 team. Comcast has had “no substantive response” to a proposal made back in February, he said,

“As a result, we believe BTN and those Big Ten games that are on FS1 are in danger of not being carried Comcast this coming season,” Silverman said at the Big Ten Conference Football Media Day in Chicago. “So we are letting people know this to alert Comcast subscribers of this real possibility they may lose these games.”

Big Ten Network is scheduled to air the Rutgers Scarlet Knights home opener in Piscataway against Texas State on Sept. 1. It carries Rutgers versus Ohio State a week later. A third game is scheduled to be carried on Fox Sports 1.

A Comcast spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Silverman said the network has contacted Comcast to “keep the network on the air” in the systems outside its conference footprint. “Comcast was intent on dropping BTN and refused to listen to our plea,” he said.

The company has offered “Comcast proposals with rates that are in line with what other distributors are paying,” Big Ten Network said on its website. “Comcast has not substantively responded to any of our renewal proposals,” the company said.

Should Comcast decide to not carry Big Ten Network, viewers would be able to view games on other television providers, cable, satellite and on the Internet. “Viewers will have no problem finding alternative providers in their area,” he said.

Sports fans have been caught in the middle of a fight between a sports channel and cable company.

Back in 2015, Comcast pulled the Yes Network off its system in a carriage dispute that wasn’t resolved for over a year. The channel was finally restored to the Comcast lineup shortly before the Yankees took the field in an exhibition game in March 2017.