Still no deal for Big Ten Network in Madison

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Posted by on August 23, 2008 at 20:40:58:

Time Warner, Big Ten Network negotiations take ugly turn

With the college football season set to begin, things are getting down and dirty between Time Warner Cable and the Big Ten Network.

Both Time Warner, the dominant cable provider in the Milwaukee area and the Fox Valley, and Charter Communications, the dominant cable provider in the Madison area, remain without deals to carry BTN.

That prevented both cable companies from televising five University of Wisconsin football games last season, and it will have a similar impact again this season if no deals are reached; BTN will televise the first two UW nonconference games Aug. 30 and Sept. 6 and is guaranteed at least one UW conference game.

But while Charter and BTN have mostly kept their negotiations and dispute civil, Time Warner on Friday sent a letter to UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez offering to broadcast the UW games against the University of Akron Aug. 30 and Marshall University Sept. 6 on a pay-per-view basis, with UW setting the price and keeping the proceeds, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

A similar letter was sent to Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith, the paper said.

The prompted a scathing reply from BTN that recalled Ronald Reagan's famous debate line against Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential campaign.

"There they go again," said the statement, which was e-mailed to The Capital Times and other media by Elizabeth Conlisk, BTN vice president of communications.

"Time Warner today publicly offered to air Badger football games on a pay per view basis. Time Warner is well aware that it cannot selectively choose to air a network's programming in lieu of full carriage. In addition, offering to do so to a customer base it has effectively ignored for the past year in not carrying the network is counter-productive and creates both confusion and false hope.

"While proposals have recently been exchanged, there is a wide gap between what Time Warner and its other competitors would seem to agree is reasonable and fair. Somehow America's top cable operator, largest telephone company and two satellite providers have each decided to make the Big Ten Network available to their customers. There are another 230 or so similar companies, serving more than 55 million homes and seven out of every 10 folks in the eight Big Ten states, that each carry the network, too.

"Time Warner has already had more than 18 months to decide to offer the Big Ten Network to its customers, and in a statement Wednesday said 'we are ready to carry the network.' Fine. Then they should carry the network, and at terms comparable to the network's other agreements. Or they should tell their customers they have decided not to. Either way, Badger fans deserve to know the truth."

BTN, which is co-owned by the conference's 11 member schools and Fox National Cable Sports Networks, has carriage deals with satellite providers DirecTV and DISH Network, phone company AT&T and Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company, which launched the network Aug. 15.

Meanwhile, on Friday reported that Mediacom, the dominant cable provider in Iowa, is nearing a multiyear deal that would put BTN on its desired basic cable level, citing sources familiar with the negotiations.

Mediacom's rollout of BTN is expected to begin early next week, reported.

Iowa's first three games this year -- home games against Maine Aug. 30, Florida International Sept. 6 and Iowa State Sept. 13 -- are all slated to air on BTN.

Mediacom officials could not immediately be reached while while BTN and Fox Cable officials declined to comment, said.

(The Capital Times)

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