April 17, 2014

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Big Ten notes: League network still has limited viewership

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,” said Mark Silverman, president of the Big Ten Networky. “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.”
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.

Insight agrees to deal to carry BTN

Insight Communications Inc. agreed to carry the Big Ten Network on half of its cable systems, the company said Wednesday, putting the regional sports network in two Big Ten markets in time for the start of the college football season.
New York-based Insight, the nation’s ninth-largest cable operator with 1.4 million households, will distribute the network to 640,000 households, including in Columbus — home to Ohio State University — and Evansville, Ind., near Indiana University.
The Insight deal is the biggest distribution agreement with a cable operator for the fledgling sports network, a joint venture between the schools of the Big Ten Conference and Fox Cable Networks. Neither Insight nor the Big Ten Network would disclose the financial terms.

Cleaning day

There’s no escaping cleanup duty for No. 17 Penn State.
Several Nittany Lions were involved in an off-campus fight over the summer that left coach Joe Paterno so steamed he ordered his entire squad to clean up Beaver Stadium after home games this fall, among other punishments.
“We haven’t covered any of the details yet,” linebacker Dan Connor said. “Just go out there and clean.”

Donovan … for now

Coach Bret Bielema has chosen fifth-year senior Tyler Donovan to open the season as the starting QB for No. 7 Wisconsin, but he won’t rule out bringing in junior Allan Evridge if Donovan struggles on Saturday against Washington State.
“Our quarterbacks fully understand that Tyler is our starter, and he’s not just there to be yanked if he throws an incomplete pass or if he throws an interception,” Bielema said. “But by the same account, everybody in our program realizes every snap counts.”

Script C-E-L-I-N-E?

Some Big Ten schools, such as Michigan, charge more for big games and less for those against lesser opponents. For instance, a ticket to see the Wolverines host Appalachian State on Saturday costs $50, while home games against rivals such as Ohio State and Notre Dame are $60.
“Do I think it’s fair? Yeah, I think it’s fair,” said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. “I’ve been to a couple concerts and our tickets are very reasonable. I was out in Vegas … and (wife) Ellen and I went to see Celine Dion, and it was, like, $200. You can go to three Ohio State games for that. And I knew the words to the songs. At least when you go to the game, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”