Stay Tuned
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Friday, August 31, 2007

When the Conferences Take On the Cable Companies...

This weekend is the official start to the college football season and already many fans are irate—not at their teams, but at their cable systems.

Comcast Cable, which covers Huntington, has dropped ESPNU from its channel line-up, which means Comcast subscribers will not be able to see the Marshall-Miami game this Saturday. Time Warner in Ashland/Ironton, however, has added ESPNU to its digital basic lineup. Digital cable customers can see the game on channel 125, but if you just have the basic service, unfortunately, you’re in the same boat as the Comcast customers in Huntington…

A bigger battle is brewing in Big Ten country as Time Warner and Comcast are fighting it out with the new Big Ten Network.

Honestly, it was only a matter of time before the conferences figured out that they could make even more money if they created their own television networks, and the Big Ten is taking the lead. But the cable companies are taking a stand, hoping to deter other conferences from doing the same.

According to an article in the “New York Times,” the Big Ten Conference will make $50 million from the network, which the conference owns 51% of (FOX owns the other 49%). In order to do this, the Big Ten Network will charge $.10 per customer per month to the cable companies, UNLESS the cable company covers one of the eight Big Ten states and then it will be $1.10 per customer per month—the second highest price of any national channel (ESPN is the highest at $3.). Time Warner and Comcast believe that they shouldn’t have to pay for a channel that not all of their customers want, especially when it will mean a higher cable bill.

All of this means that Ohio customers will not be able to see their beloved Ohio State Buckeyes take on Youngstown State this Saturday, or see them take on Akron the next Saturday.

The good news, however, for Buckeyes fans is that these are the only two OSU football games the Big Ten Network is scheduled to do. The rest will air on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2, which the cable systems already carry. In fact, the Big Ten Network will always pick its games after ABC, and in some weeks, even after ESPN2, which means it will not have that strong of a schedule anyway—another argument the cable systems are using.

You know that I have my differences with the cable company (Don’t we all?), but I’m afraid I’m on their side on this one. I’m all for universities raising money, but do we all have to pay more for it? I’m an Ohio State fan and I like to watch the OSU football games, but should I have to pay more for my cable to watch the games I saw for the lower price last year?

The answer to that is a definite no!

I hope that the other conferences—and for that matter other sports in general—will take the Big Ten situation into consideration when they start thinking about going out on their own…