Big Ten Network faces blackouts in Midwest

The Big Ten Network is ready for football season, though few fans will get to see its first big day.

The conference’s new TV network has been unable to sign a deal with the two largest cable television providers in the Midwest – Comcast and Time Warner.

On one side of the feud is the fledgling Big Ten Network, which has slotted six games involving conference teams for its first big Saturday on the air. Those games will be shown on satellite provider DirecTV and some 40 smaller cable companies.

On the other side are Comcast and Time Warner. They refuse to bow to what they say are two of the new network’s demands: putting it on expanded basic cable, and charging each subscriber in the conference’s eight states an additional $1.10 a month for the service.

Both sides call the other side greedy.

“What I did not foresee was how public this would become,” Mark Silverman, president of the Big Ten Network, said yesterday. “In my experience, cable companies negotiate very tough. I did not expect this to be any different. But it is the public face of it that is a surprise. It’s been particularly contentious.”

He remains hopeful that the deals will get done.

Comcast and Time Warner subscribers will have to either listen to the games on radio, switch to a satellite dish or go to a restaurant or bar which carries the game.

The BTN promises 400 live events a year, although many of the premier showdowns in football such as Ohio State at Michigan, Michigan at Michigan State, Ohio State at Penn State, Michigan State at Notre Dame, Notre Dame at Penn State and Notre Dame at Michigan will be picked up by ABC and ESPN under their contracts with the conference. And Comcast and Time Warner will have all of those games.