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Minnesota Football: Have Comcast? You Might Not Have the Big Ten Network For Long

BTN President Mark Silverman did not paint a rosy picture

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Media Day
BTN president Mark Silverman sounded a potential alarm for Comcast subscribers
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Back in April, Comcast took the Big Ten network out of their sports and entertainment package for states that are not included in the Big Ten footprint. So if you are a Minnesota or say Purdue fan living in California or Washington with Comcast (who is the main cable provider in each state) you no longer can watch your teams play. Well BTN President Mark Silverman dropped a bit of an alarming bombshell at the Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday. There is a decent probability that Comcast will drop BTN from its broadcast lineup through out the entire country, not just the non-Big Ten footprint beginning on September 1st.

Comcast is the leading cable provider in ten of the fourteen Big Ten school markets, including the Twin Cities. Silverman said that a ten-year carriage deal with the cable giant expires on August 31st.

If a new deal is not reached by that date, Comcast will most likely take BTN off of their airwaves. But that’s not all. Comcast also has paid a surcharge to Fox and BTN for access to the Big Ten games that air on Fox and FS1. That deal also expires on August 31st.

Thus if new deals aren’t reached, if you have Comcast the only Gopher games you will see next fall will be the ones airing on the ESPN family of networks.

Silverman said that BTN and Fox have made several proposals to Comcast, but they have not responded since February. The situation is dire enough that Silverman basically told Big Ten fans from the podium that if they want to be sure to see games this fall, they should find an alternative to Comcast.

If this would occur, the Gophers opener against New Mexico State could be the last game many Minnesotans could see on the airwaves. The Gophers other two non-conference games are slated to air on FS1 or BTN, along with the Friday night home game against Indiana. It’s 100% certain that several of the rest of the Gophers Big Ten games will be slated on Fox, FS1, or BTN. Cutting the cord to a streaming service has been exceptionally popular recently, and this may just be another nail in the coffin of several Comcast subscribers.

But, and its a big but, this could be the start of much larger and longer term changes. As Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel explains:

“Unfortunately, my fear is 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,” said Silverman.

And here is where it gets interesting. Powered by BTN revenue, school athletic departments have grown exponentially the last half dozen years – with gold-plated facilities, major debt service on new construction, bloated staffs and huge coaching contracts.

Michigan, for example, employed 253 people in its athletic department at an average salary of $73,382.64 in 2010-2011, per state records. Just seven years later, in 2017-18, there are 368 employees (up 31.3 percent) at an average salary of $99,310.58 (up 26.1 percent).

These are clearly the boom times for the National Collegiate Athletic Industrial Complex … more, more, more. But booms can go bust.

How do schools such as Michigan maintain the funding needed for all the new workers, all the new construction, all the new everything? No, not now. Michigan, and everyone else’s, check will clear. Don’t pass the hat for the Big Ten quite yet.

In five years though? In 10? Will there even be such a thing as basic cable to profit off?

Big Ten schools will get $51 million dollars this school year from the conference thanks to its various tv deals. But what will happen if some of that money dries up the next time the rights are up for renewal? Its not something that has immediate impacts, but any Big Ten athletic director would be committing major malfeasance to not at least have an eye to the changing tides and have a plan if things go south in the near future.

In the short term, those of you that have Comcast may want to do your research on any additional available options for your TV services if you really care about Big Ten athletics. Obviously you have your satellite choices, but as I said earlier, cord cutting streaming services have become all the rage recently and are only becoming more and more popular. We here at TDG will try and get you some information on your various streaming options in the next few weeks so that you will have some idea of what your other options are if you need to make that call to Comcast.