Want to watch the Romeo Langford era tip-off with Indiana basketball? You better live in the right place
There have been early signs of fervor building within the Indiana University fan base as it looks forward the 2018-19 men’s basketball season.
Earlier this spring, the Indiana University Alumni Association held its annual fan gathering event at Huber’s Orchard, Winery, and Vineyard in southern Indiana and the crowd was the biggest in years.
“People are excited from Lake Michigan down to the Ohio River,” Hoosier athletic director Fred Glass said at the event. “Across the state, there is a real buzz and enthusiasm.”
In actuality, the “buzz” stretches a lot further than that.
The Indiana University Alumni Association boasts a membership of nearly 700,000 graduates with 160 organized chapters stretching from Monroe County all the way to Afghanistan and everywhere in between.
The fans that follow the Hoosiers aren’t limited to Indiana, but for many of those members of the “Hoosier Nation” that don’t reside in this state, they are going to be profoundly disappointed when they turn on their televisions to watch the Romeo Langford-era tip-off this winter.
The Big Ten Network is embroiled in a dispute with cable provider Comcast and as it stands today, there are a lot of fans that won’t be able to watch the Hoosiers on the cable provider post-August 31.
“BTN is now facing our biggest challenge since the launch of the network,” President of Fox Sports National Networks and BTN Mark Silverman said at the league’s football media day in Chicago Tuesday. “Our 10-year agreement with Comcast expires at the end of August.
“A few months ago, BTN was removed from out of market cable systems on Comcast, which is the leading cable provider in the country. Upon learning of the impending removal, we immediately reached out to Comcast in an effort to keep the network on the air. Comcast was intent on dropping BTN and refused to listen to our plea.”
Comcast is the primary cable provider in 10 of the 14 markets within the Big Ten Conference, Silverman explained, with Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, and Nebraska being the exceptions. So the decision by Comcast is perplexing to him, to say the least.
“Unlike the usual scenario in these carriage disputes,” Silverman continued, “there is no economic benefit to Comcast at all to do this and removed BTN from their systems outside the Big Ten area, which begs the question: Why did they do this?”
Indiana fans – and Purdue fans, as well – that live outside of the Big Ten markets more than likely aren’t concerned with the specifics of the dispute, they just want to be able to watch their favorite universities compete once football (and later basketball) season begins.
Silverman said that the dispute also involves FSI, which carries Big Ten football and basketball games, including 22 of the initial 24 games of the 2018 football season.
“In addition to the BTN agreement expiring,” Silverman added, “so is the agreement for all Big Ten games that air on FS1. BTN and FS1 have made a proposal to Comcast dating back to February, and we’ve had no substantive response at all. As a result, we believe BTN and those Big Ten games that are on FS1 are in danger of not being carried on Comcast this coming season. So we are letting people know this to alert Comcast subscribers of this real possibility they may lose these games.”
Silverman said that there remain other options (different television providers, cable, satellite, and the new Internet providers) for fans in those out-of-market areas to watch BTN. However, that isn’t always as easy to do as plopping down on the couch and reaching for the remote.
“We’re comfortable with this newer method of distributing BTN digitally through these other providers,” Silverman said. “But we do believe in the value of offering consumers a variety of different networks together.”
What Silverman isn’t “comfortable” with, even more so than the impending date of Sept. 1 coming with no agreement reached, is the possibility that this move by Comcast is a precursor of a larger problem.
“My fear is,” Silverman said, “the removal of BTN in the outer market may just be the first step in Comcast’s plan to remove BTN from their systems everywhere, including the Big Ten home markets.”
A website (www.keepbigten.com) has been created to keep viewers informed with updates on the situation and also provides opportunities to post comments to social media and find alternative methods to view the networks.
“I’m feeling with a little over five weeks left before football season, we should be much further along (in negotiations) than we are,” Silverman said. “It’s extremely concerning. I’ve gone through this with them 10 years ago and I can’t predict what their motivations are. I don’t know what their motivations are.
“We are, we believe, a strong value product especially in our Big Ten area. We know we rate among the highest of all sports networks in our area. We believe we’ve given viewers and fans a lot of fantastic moments covering the Big Ten over the past 10 years, and we believe we should be in every single cable lineup across the country, including Comcast and we hope to be able to do that.”
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