CHICAGO — If Comcast is your cable provider and you live in a Big Ten market, be warned: you may lose your ability to watch conference games shown on Big Ten Network and Fox Sports 1 in the near future.
That was the message Mark Silverman, president of BTN and Fox Sports, had Tuesday morning at Big Ten media days, as BTN and FS1 are embroiled in a carriage dispute with Comcast.
That dispute could impact York County Penn State fans who are Comcast subscribers. PSU opens its 2018 season on Saturday, Sept. 1, vs. Appalachian State on BTN. The games on Saturday, Sept. 15, vs. Kent State, and on Friday, Sept. 21, vs. Illinois, are set to be broadcast by FS1.
Earlier this spring, Comcast decided to drop BTN for all non-Big Ten TV markets. Silverman believes that move was the precursor to dropping the network entirely, and said BTN is now facing its “biggest challenge since the launch of the network.”
“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,” Silverman said.
"BTN and FS1 have made proposals to Comcast dating back to February, and we’ve had no substantive response at all. As a result, we believe BTN and those 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 very real possibility they may lose these games.”
A 10-year agreement that BTN shared with Comcast expires at the end of August, and an agreement between FS1 and Comcast that allows the channel to carry certain Big Ten games is set to expire as well.
Silverman says that BTN “immediately” reached out to Comcast — the leading cable provider in the country — after learning of its decision to drop BTN from out-of-market cable systems. That appears to have only added to any contention between both sides.
According to Silverman, BTN and FS1 are expected to televise approximately 60 games this fall.