SBJ: Big Ten might keep Maryland, Rutgers off BTN without new cable deals

Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

The Big Ten is prepared to tell cable companies, "OK, this is a stick-up."

The ongoing exercise in rapture and ecstasy that is Maryland's departure from the ACC for the Big Ten conference took another turn today, when the indefatigable John Ourand of Sports Business Journal revealed that the conference might keep all Maryland and Rutgers games off the Big Ten Network unless cable companies move BTN to an expanded basic tier (a la ESPN, which already costs the cable companies a pretty penny, which they then pass on to you, the loyal customer).

As Ourand explains:

Comcast is the dominant cable operator in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore markets, and carries the Big Ten Network on its sports and entertainment tier. In New Jersey, Comcast and Cablevision carry the channel on a higher-priced sports tier.

And there's no reason to change a tactic that's worked before:

The Big Ten did not have to employ this strategy in Nebraska last year, when the state's biggest cable operators, including Time Warner Cable and Charter, cut deals for the Big Ten Network weeks before Nebraska was scheduled to open the [football] season. But the conference was prepared to keep Nebraska's football games out of the market if those deals were not made.

The majority of the Big Ten Network, we'll point out here, is owned by Fox Sports, which, as we noted back when it came out that they were put on the scent of MASN by Major League Baseball, is very, very good at making money at this sort of thing.

Of course, it would be ironic if fans couldn't watch Maryland games on the Big Ten Network, since the primary reason the Terps left the ACC was to get a piece of that sweet, sweet, BTN dough. Until then, I guess Terps fans will just have to buy more tick ... Oh, we see what you did there.

Eight BCS schools experienced attendance declines of 10 percent or greater from 2011: Kentucky (17 percent); Maryland (15 percent); Stanford (13 percent); and Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Colorado (10 percent each).

Emphasis added.

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