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Scott D. Pierce: Big Ten commish hasn't a clue about Comcast dealings

Published: Friday, June 29 2007 12:29 a.m. MDT

The commissioner of the Big Ten is remarkably naive.
Well, either that or the Mountain West Conference's channel, The mtn., is completely off his radar.
Everybody's favorite cable company, Comcast, and the Big Ten are fighting over the soon-to-be-launched Big Ten network. The conference wants it available to as many Comcast subscribers as possible — meaning at a lower, less-expensive tier — while Comcast is talking about putting it on a higher, more expensive tier.
What's absolutely laughable is this statement by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: "Now, perhaps if they owned the network, we would be getting a different treatment."
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
(Sorry for the spontaneous laughter.)
Delany was referring to Comcast-owned networks like Versus and the Golf Channel. But Comcast also is half-owner and operator The mtn.
Yes, The mtn. is available on lower tiers of Comcast cable systems in Mountain West TV markets. But it isn't available at all on most Comcast systems.
Again, Comcast owns half The mtn.

COMCAST IS RIGHT, however, in its battle of words with Delany and the Big Ten. He took umbrage at a statement in a Comcast press release that the channel would air "second and third-tier sporting events" on a "a niche sports channel" and added, "Indiana basketball fans don't want to watch Iowa volleyball, but the Big Ten wants everyone to pay for their new network."
Delany is demanding an apology and playing the gender card — accusing Comcast of sexism because Iowa plays women's volleyball, not men's.
That is, well, dumb.
The truth is that the Big Ten Network will have second- and third-tier games because the network has contracts with ABC and ESPN so the premier football and men's basketball games will be picked off by those networks. And when it comes to fan/viewer interest, volleyball does rank below football and men's basketball.
It is telling, however, that Comcast considers the Big Ten Network a niche channel. That pretty much explains why the cable company won't distribute The mtn. in non-MWC markets.
Did I mention that Comcast owns half of The mtn.?

I DON'T WANT to make too much out of the f-bomb dropped live on TNT's coverage of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 last weekend, but, c'mon, how could anyone be surprised?
TNT put a mike on Kyle Petty. When another driver unexpectedly cut in front of Petty, he said, "What the (expletive)?" for the audience at home to hear.
Given that you probably wouldn't want to put a live mike on most of the drivers on I-15 during rush hour, why would you want to put a mike on a NASCAR driver?

ONCE AGAIN, the problems with the Mountain West's TV deal are not unique to the Mountain West. The Philadelphia News ran a column by John Smallwood berating the U.S. Soccer Federation for selling the English-language rights to the Gold Cup tournament to Fox Soccer Channel.
"If most Americans can't see the U.S. team play in a tournament as big as the Gold Cup, is it really helping to sell the sport? Somebody in the marketing department of the U.S. Soccer Federation is dropping the ball."
It's not the same situation that MWC fans find themselves in, however. Smallwood wrote that FSC is available on his satellite system, but it costs extra.
"I like soccer, but not enough to add more to my already sky-high television bill."
There are a lot of MWC fans who would pay a premium to get The mtn. but don't have that option.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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