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Big Ten Network Fails to Land Comcast Distribution Deal

Fox Cable Networks said Friday that it doesn’t expect that it’ll be able to strike a carriage deal for its Big Ten Network with Comcast before the network debuts on Aug. 30.

While Big Ten Network has distribution agreements with 100 smaller Midwest cable operators – in addition to national deals with DirecTV and AT&T’s U-verse TV – the new sports channel wasn’t able to hook the nation’s largest cable operator.

“The fact is that Comcast is unwilling to negotiate with us, and it is now clear that it’s highly unlikely any agreement will be achieved prior to launch,” Bob Thompson, president of Fox National Cable Sports Networks, said in a prepared statement Friday.

Big Ten Network, which is backed by Fox Cable Networks and the Big Ten Conference, has pushed Comcast and other cable operators for a place on their basic cable tiers. But Comcast has said that it would only carry Big Ten Network if it could place the channel on a sports tier.

“It’s unfortunate but clear that Comcast refuses to negotiate and would rather devote its energy to confusing the public,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a prepared statement. “I have to believe that focusing our attention on more productive negotiations with other operators is the right thing to do.”

Comcast Midwest Division President Bill Connors was quoted in Friday’s Chicago Tribune saying that he had a “meaningful conversation” with a Fox official as late as Wednesday. The MSO insists it wants to make a deal with the Big Ten Network that’s best for its subscribers, which it feels would be sports tier carriage.  

But Thompson told Multichannel News that Fox “isn’t negotiating with [Connors] as it relates to carriage … it’s with Comcast in Philadelphia.”