Big Ten Network Dishes Up Deal

Big Ten Network, which gained national prominence with its coverage of Appalachian State’s monumental upset of Michigan last Saturday, scored big on the distribution front today, notching an agreement with EchoStar Communications Corp.

The deal will make the Big Ten Network, which is co-owned by the conference’s 11-member schools and Fox National Cable Sports Networks, available to Dish Network subscribers that subscribe to America’s Top 100 package and higher at Channel 439.

Dish customers throughout the nation will also have the opportunity to preview the network until early 2008, at which time BTN will be carried on America’s Top 100 Plus service within the eight states home to Big Ten schools.

America’s Top 100 package reaches an estimated 13 million homes nationally, including well over 2 million within the Big Ten states' footprint, according to sources. Industry estimates peg America’s Top 100 Plus customer presence at around 2 million in the eight-state territory.

This Saturday, Dish Network will broadcast two BTN games in high-definition on channel 9467: Akron at Ohio State (noon ET) and Syracuse at Iowa (8 p.m ET). The No. 2 DBS provider will officially launch the HD simulcast of the BTN the following week.

The deal is the second major carriage contract for BTN, which debuted Aug. 30, in the past eight days: the service reached an accord Aug. 29 for some 640,000 Insight Communications Corp. customers, including subscribers in Columbus, Ohio, home to the Ohio State Buckeyes

BTN, which continues to negotiate with Mediacom Corp, also has deals with DirecTV, AT&T's U-Verse TV and 100 smaller Midwest cable operators and municipal providers.

However, it has been unable to reach deals with Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, both of which have balked at BTN’s terms that reportedly call for a monthly subscriber fee of about $1 per month within the conference’s territory and a 10-cent fee outside of those states.

Commenting on the deal Dish senior vice president of programming Eric Sahl said in a statement: “Dish Network recognizes how important Big Ten games are to our customers, and we are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Big Ten Network so we may continue offering our customers the best in college and all sports. Additionally, when we launch the HD simulcast of the Big Ten Network next week, our customers will receive even more HD programming at the best value.”

Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman added in statement: “It’s great to add Dish Network to our growing list of distribution partners, because it offers another important choice for our fans. Dish Network continues to enhance its HD sports lineup, and we’re going to produce more events in HD than any new network in television history. We look forward to working closely with Dish to bring more and more viewers to the Big Ten Network.”