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BTN/Fox in Conflict with Comcast

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An expiring contract may keep BTN off Comcast customers’ televisions this football season

NCAA Football: Purdue at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A developing conflict between Comcast, the cable giant that controls most of New Jersey’s cable subscribers, and the Big Ten Network seems to have developed as the contract comes to an end next month. Both BTN and Comcast are warning customers that the other is causing the issue.

Various news outlets have reported the conflict, including business giant Bloomberg, as well as entertainment newspaper Variety, which shows both the impact these large events have in both the business world as well as the entertainment world.

Of course, this brings into focus the importance of these deals in both these realms. Sports, even college sports, are both big business as well as entertainment. But, what exactly is the conflict? Well, it depends upon which side you hear on the topic.

The contract between Comcast and Fox Sports, who controls the Big Ten Network, expires at the end of August. Whenever these contracts expire, there is posturing by each side to negotiate a new deal. Fox/BTN wants to get an increase in their fee from Comcast, and Comcast wants to keep the costs the same or lower as the expiring contract.

While these are the normal issues (Yankee fans may remember the issues between Comcast and the YES Network which resulted in the entire 2016 season being lost to Yankee fans), this one is complicated by the recent failed attempt by Comcast to purchase 21st Century Fox’s assets. Following this, the initial salvo from Comcast was to remove BTN from all cable systems outside the Big Ten footprint.

At the just concluded Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, Fox Sports President Mark Silverman blasted Comcast, warning that a deal will mean that Comcast subscribers will not only not get BTN programing, but the Fox Sports 1 Network as well.

“I’m feeling with a little over five weeks left before football season, we should be much further along than we are. It’s extremely concerning. I’ve gone through this with them 10 years ago. And I can’t predict what their motivations are.” - Mark Silverman

The network has started a campaign to get fans involved through social media.

Not only the network, but fans on social media have begun to chime in with their thoughts.

Even the New York Stock Exchange’s Twitter account has reported on it, with the reporters, who are both Big Ten alums, talk about the issue.

While they are discussing the millions of Comcast subscribers in the Chicago area, it hits close to home here as well. James Kratch, the NJ.com reporter for Rutgers sports, tweeted his own story on the issue, warning that millions of NJ residents face losing both BTN as well as FS1.

Comcast has a history of playing hardball with cable networks. The cable providers sometimes feel that they would prefer an a la carte menu for the more expensive networks, because they pay a fee for EVERY subscriber to receive the network, and the feeling is that perhaps every New Jersey resident isn’t all that interested in Rutgers sports.

So, this isn’t over yet, but there is a very definite possibility that BTN and FS1 will not be available to Rutgers fans who subscribe to Comcast this fall. If this is something that you wish to address with either Comcast or Fox Sports, either one would be more than willing to give you contact information for the other. Finally, if you want to find another method for getting the networks if it does go dark on Comcast, just click here.