TWC Tries To Score Big 10 Net Carriage

Ohio State BuckeyesWith an updated online notice, Time Warner Cable continued its effort to fend off various complaints--and possibly subscriber defections--from Ohio State football fans. They are upset that TWC still does not have an agreement to carry the Big Ten Network. The issue is acute, as the highly ranked team with a rabid fan base opens its season Aug. 30 with a game only on BTN.

TWC and BTN are locked in a stalemate over how much TWC will pay to offer the channel, keeping it off its service.

"We appreciate your patience as talks continue and want to assure you that we will do everything possible to achieve a positive solution for all our customers," the posting on the site for TWC's mid-Ohio cluster said. A BTN representative wrote in an email that the two sides "remain far apart."

BTN is scheduled to carry two of OSU's first four games, albeit ones against lower-tier opponents. But later in the season, BTN may pick up an important game in the Big Ten Conference and air it exclusively. The opening game against Youngstown State will not be available to 600,000 subscribers in central Ohio, including in the school's Columbus hometown. TWC also serves homes in parts of the Cleveland and Cincinnati areas.



Separately, with no BTN carriage deal, TWC customers in Wisconsin are similarly impacted. Customers in Milwaukee and Green Bay who pull for the University of Wisconsin will not be able to watch the team's first two games, starting with its Aug. 30 opener.

TWC has refused to pay the rights fees BTN is asking, and has been engaged in a year-long standoff. Fox Cable is conducting the negotiations on behalf of BTN, with News Corp. a part owner of the network.

On the Web site for TWC's mid-Ohio cluster, the operator said it is continuing to negotiate with BTN and "both sides have indicated an interest in working toward an agreement." And the BTN rep wrote that the network is flexible, but that without "significant movement quickly, we may run out of time" to reach a deal by opening day.

TWC also attempted to persuade OSU fans and subscribers that they will not miss any of the team's marquee games, such as the Sept. 13 contest against USC (on ABC) or the Oct. 25 game versus Penn State (on ABC or ESPN). One of the arguments that operators make against paying to offer BTN is that the network offers second-tier games. BTN says fans want to watch all of their team's games.

On its Cincinnati-area Web site, TWC has an item posted that says BTN is seeking sub fees of $1.10 per customer per month, and "stands to make $237 million each year from cable customers in the Big Ten states alone." BTN says its deals with other carriers show it can reach deals that are "fair and reasonable for all parties." TWC runs some risk that OSU fans could switch their service to a satellite provider or perhaps AT&T U-verse (where available). Both carry BTN.

In the Columbus area, the two other cable providers, Insight and Wide Open West, apparently don't want to risk losing OSU fans and carry BTN. Still, BTN has been available for a year--including one football season--and if TWC felt it was hemorrhaging customers, it probably would have made a deal by now.

TWC is the nation's second-largest cable provider. The leader, Comcast, had also resisted paying the prices that BTN sought, but reached a carriage deal in June. Comcast has a wider footprint than TWC in the eight-state Big Ten region.

Last week, BTN made a deal with Midcontinent Communications, the country's 18th-largest cable operator (servicing more than 200,000 homes) to offer BTN. Midcontinent serves parts of Western Minnesota, a Big Ten state, as well as the adjacent Dakotas, where some University of Minnesota fans may reside.

Both Comcast and Midcontinent's deals allow the carriers to offer the network on various tiers.

Next story loading loading..