Penn State Games on TV in Jeopardy with BTN/FS1 Stalemate vs. Comcast

By John Morgan on July 25, 2018 at 12:30 pm
BTN president Mark Silverman
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Network/FOX Sports President Mark Silverman took the stage in day two of Big Ten Media Days and painted a bleak picture of the current negotiations with cable giant Comcast. The contract between the two is set to expire on August 31, and Silverman hinted that Comcast could drop the channels on which Penn State is set to play early-season games against Appalachian State (BTN), Kent State, and Illinois (FS1). 

Earlier this year, Comcast dropped BTN in "out -of-market" parts of the country in an effort to keep cable costs down for those subscribers. At the time, Comcast released a statement that "the markets that will continue to receive BTN are Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin." As the deadline approaches, Comcast faces a similar dilemma even within the Big Ten footprint as consumers are increasingly looking to lower their bills. Cord-cutters have found other ways of getting the network through Internet cable providers such as Hulu Live TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and Playstation Vue, among others. With Comcast, BTN has added around $10 per year to the cable package and is buried in the monthly costs, but it's a channel that may not appeal to all subscribers.

When BTN launched, it was ahead of its time. A conference-only channel meant more revenue for all of the league members, and as the Big Ten expanded into the coveted markets of New York and Washington, D.C., it meant even more money for the league. That promise of cash was a major factor for Maryland and Rutgers becoming Big Ten schools. Last year, each school received $51 million in revenue distributions, which was hard to fathom a decade ago. 

With the contract set to expire and the fear that Comcast will drop BTN/FS1, ability for fans to see games is a major concern for the conference. Comcast is the largest provider in 11 Big Ten states. That is why it's no surprise that Silverman took the stage to air some grievances regarding the current state of negotiations. BTN even created a website for consumers which gives contact info for Comcast or options for alternate cable providers that carry the channel.

This is now a classic battle between two media heavyweights with just over a month to go before the contract expires. Silverman did his best to publicly lobby some of the most devout fans in the country. For Penn State fans who are Comcast subscribers, they must now wait and hope that these final days of negotiations sort themselves out before September 1. In the ever-changing media landscape, fans may look elsewhere to ensure they can watch these games and that's the challenge that networks and cable providers will continue to face.

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