Content with Leverage


In a world where content is king, probably nothing matches the audience appeal and leverage power of sports programming. Most people want to watch sports live (a boon to advertisers) and there are rabid fans at all levels, from high school athletics to professional-league games.

Witness the recent hullabaloo over the Big Ten Network (BTN). BTN has decided to launch this Thursday on AT&T’s U-verse service. Neatly left out of the launch party is cable giant Comcast. Comcast wants to stick BTN on its sports tier, while BTN has argued it should be placed on the extended basic service tier, which has a much larger audience. The companies are at an impasse, and BTN believes it can hold out because AT&T offers a nice alternative. In other words, Comcast isn’t the only game in town.

Of course for consumers the result is that a lot of people are going to miss out on Big Ten games. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune uses the issue to argue for a-la-carte pricing, but of course there are problems with that approach, as EngadgetHD covered recently. Still I hope somebody finds a reasonable solution for getting regional sports games, particularly out of market. Oh wait, isn’t there something called a Slingbox? :)

UPDATE: Comcast fights back with free on-demand coverage of Big Ten team Notre Dame.

8 thoughts on “Content with Leverage”

  1. Monday night football in HD on ESPN was a coup – keeps everyone on cable/satellite and allows them to charge providers 3x what the average channel costs.

    By the way, Comcast must have moved some of my sports channels last fall to a sports tier because I lost access to NFL Network and some of the regionals. Thanks for the notice! ;)

  2. In football they are independent and have their own NBC contract – though they probably didn’t deserve it during a few years of mediocrity (and mediocre opponents). There were so many better games I could have watched on Saturday. Bah! (Of course, I should disclose I’m a ‘Canes fan and remember our heated rivalry. Catholics versus Convicts? What kind of crap is that! ;) )

  3. Notre Dame football is independent (the other sports might as well be too, ha). Yeah, they’re dumping millions into the BTN and it’s likely to remain that way for the 20-25 year contract they’re on. They have 3 new HD trucks coming online ( and have built a 40k sq. ft. tapeless HD production facility in Chicago that I hear is nice.

  4. The whole BTN vs Cable is amusing mostly in how the two sides are fighting each other. Comcast’s astroturfing of Big Ten forums was outed pretty quickly on Deadspin and the BTN website is just ridiculous.

    Both sides are being greedy and eventually the customers will be the ones to pay. Go U, Beat State!

  5. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take anymore!” Actually BTN and the cable providers are in a race to see who can screw the fans more. This looks to me like one more step in the drive to get all TV sports pay for view. The bottom line is TV games that were once available on broadcast TV on local markets are not available until this mess is straightened out. Thanks Big Ten…..for nothing.

  6. Steve, What about blackout restrictions? Growing up I got to watch very few Dolphins games. Probably why I’m a college football fan these days. Guess that didn’t work out so well for the NFL. ;) Even college has gotten nutty and is driven largely by dollars – how else do you explain the broken bowl system and lack of playoffs? I think I’m going to start watching high school football.

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