Charter makes deal with Big Ten Network

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Posted by on August 27, 2008 at 07:36:24:

Charter strikes deal with Big Ten Network

A deal has been reached between Charter Communications and the Big Ten Network to televise football games this season, the Capital Times has learned.

More details will be coming shortly.

It isn't known at this time if the Akron-UW football game will be available on Charter cable this Saturday.

Charter issued a statement that said, "The Big Ten Network and Charter are currently working together in an attempt to ensure that the majority of our systems can launch the network on the expanded basic level of service in time for Saturday's Big Ten college football openers."

Charter regional spokesman John Miller said in an e-mail to The Capital Times on Tuesday, "I do believe ... that announcement of an agreement is imminent."

Assuming the logistics of launching BTN were manageable for Charter, the deal would come just in time for it to carry BTN's telecast of Saturday's University of Wisconsin football opener on BTN.

No details of a potential deal were available, but every deal BTN has reached with cable companies has included placement on a basic level of service such as Charter's "Expanded Basic" -- something the cable companies all resisted in favor of putting BTN on a digital sports tier where only fans who wanted it would pay for it.

With Time Warner and BTN reaching a deal that was announced Monday night, Charter is the last major provider in the eight Big Ten states without a deal with BTN.

Wisconsin hosts Akron at 11 a.m. on Saturday, which by coincidence is the one-year anniversary of the launch of BTN.

The Badgers second game against Marshall on Sept. 6 at 11 a.m. at Camp Randall Stadium also will be broadcast by BTN, and the network is guaranteed to televise at least one conference game for each Big Ten school this season.

Five Wisconsin football games aired on BTN last season, including its huge matchup with Ohio State.

That led to plenty of anger by Charter subscribers at all sides: BTN, Charter, the UW, the Big Ten Conference and Fox Sports Cable Networks. BTN is owned 51 percent by the conference's 11 member schools and 49 percent by Fox National Cable Sports Networks.

Charter's lack of BTN and NFL Network also likely were the prime factors in its loss of a couple points of market share locally to satellite providers DirecTV and DISH Network, both of which carry BTN and NFL Network. Both channels also are carried by small cable company MHTC, which serves the Mount Horeb, Dodgeville and Blue Mounds areas.

Charter still doesn't have a deal with NFL Network, but, unlike the last two seasons, the Green Bay Packers will not have a game on NFL Network this season so that doesn't figure to be a major issue for Charter this season.

Time Warner is the dominant cable provider in the Milwaukee and Fox Valley areas, as well as central Ohio.

BTN also has reached a deal -- yet to be officially announced -- with Iowa's major cable company, Mediacom, reported last Friday. Mediacom also has some subscribers in less populous areas of Wisconsin, including the Mauston, New Lisbon and Camp Douglas areas.

Comcast, the largest cable company in the nation and the Big Ten footprint, agreed to a deal earlier this summer.

BTN also is carried by AT&T's U-verse TV service, which is available in portions of more than 200 Wisconsin communities and is expected to launch in the Madison market this year.

While BTN has insisted on being carried on a basic level of service in the Big Ten states, it has agreed to be on digital sports tiers outside the Big Ten states.

Comcast has the right to move BTN to a digital tier in some of its markets after the end of the 2008-09 college basketball season under a complex formula that ensures it is accessible to a certain number of homes. Comcast has a far higher percentage of digital subscribers than Charter.

The network has asked for $1.10 per subscriber, a price it got in some deals with small cable companies.

Comcast reportedly is paying about 70 cents per subscriber. Time Warner is paying 75 cents per subscriber, Pali Research analyst Rich Greenfield reported Tuesday.

Issues such as high-definition carriage and video-on-demand programming also complicated negotiations.

(The Capital Times)

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