Big Ten Carried By Insight

The Big Ten Network debuts today--and it finally has a deal with a major cable operator to carry it. The deal with Insight Communications includes one major and one mid-tier market in the states where Big Ten schools are located--and several others on a trial basis in nearby Kentucky.

Insight has agreed to distribute the channel to 640,000 customers, a sizable chunk of its 1.4 million nationwide. Areas to be served include Columbus, Ohio, the country's 32nd-largest DMA--and another top-50 market, Louisville, Ky., will only be available there on a two-week trial basis.

The move is squarely aimed at fending off possible viewer defection to DirecTV, particularly in the Columbus area, where its rabid Ohio State fans root for the hometown team, which has a game Saturday on the network. DirecTV is offering it nationwide as part of its affiliation with News Corp., a part owner of the channel.

MSOs such as Comcast have balked at paying the considerable per-subscriber fee the BTN has requested. Instead, it has offered to place it on a separate pay-for-play tier, a non-starter so far for BTN.



The network wants the channel available as a basic service. It will be on the so-called "Classic" service in Columbus and Evansville, Ind. For the two-week test in Louisville and other Kentucky areas, it will be on a digital tier.

BTN is hoping enough Kentucky residents, who may be Indiana fans due to the school being nearby, will be eager for the channel and persuade Insight to pick it up permanently.

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