After almost two years of negotiations, the Big Ten Network and Comcast may be close to reaching an agreement, according to the Sports Business Journal.
The report, which cited sources from both parties, said top executives have settled on the framework of an agreement, but that an official contract could still take months.
Neither the Big Ten Network nor Comcast officials would comment on the report yesterday.
“We cannot respond specifically to the Sports Business Journal story regarding our negotiations with Comcast, other than to say we continue to talk and we continue to make progress,” said Elizabeth Conlisk, the Big Ten Network’s vice president of communications, in an e-mail statement.
Patrick Paterno, director of communications for Comcast’s Michigan region, said the two sides are still negotiating but declined to elaborate.
“We continue to negotiate with The Big Ten Network for an agreement that is fair for our customers,” Paterno said in an e-mail statement.
According to the report, Comcast has agreed to launch the network on expanded basic cable in up to 94 percent of the Big Ten conference’s eight-state coverage area.
Whether the channel would be included on basic cable was a point of contention as late as November, when Comcast refused to include the Big Ten Network in its basic cable package – even in areas that surround Big Ten schools.
Instead, Comcast, a Philadelphia-based company with more than 5.8 million subscribers in the Big Ten region, wanted to classify the network as a specialty sports channel.
Customers who buy specialty channels like the Big Ten Network must pay extra costs each month to watch them.
Comcast organized an advertising campaign last fall and winter against the Big Ten Network to address complaints from customers, many of whom were upset that they couldn’t watch certain Big Ten football and basketball games because Comcast didn’t carry the network.
The Big Ten Network has agreements in place with other major cable distributors, including AT&T and EchoStar.
If the Big Ten Network strikes a deal with Comcast, that would leave Time Warner as the only major cable operator without an agreement with the network.
All University buildings, including residence halls, already receive the Big Ten Network.
Four Michigan football games and 14 Michigan men’s basketball games have appeared on the Big Ten Network since it launched. The men’s basketball team will be televised on the network tomorrow at noon when it takes on Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.