Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wait Time

The big news, the Big Ten Network and Comcast, is not news anymore. The rush judgment was the Promised Land has arrived with sunshine, puppy dogs, and butterflies in Big Ten land. At the risk of over using the sausage metaphor it fits this in at least two ways:

1. Like a congressional conference committee negotiation can call for ugly compromises making the cut of ground meat product stuffed into the casing more acceptable than the banter at bargaining table.
2. BTN was hoping to take the scraps from the carcass and selling them at a premium price.

Those looking at the details of the Comcast/BTN agreement have seen that both can claim “victory” but most importantly save face.

As for the so called “free preview”“ for the rest of Pennsylvania and the other six Midwest states, keep in mind that once the preview ends, Comcast can move the BTN to a digital tier, which it undoubtedly intends to do.

…about 68 percent of Comcast's national subscribers already have opted for the digital tier. That number jumps to about 80 percent within the eight Big Ten states.

The most obvious landing spot in spring 2009 would be Comcast's sports tier. But a cable representative who asked not to be identified said that would not happen under the agreement. In Pennsylvania, "that means a digital channel tier, not [Comcast's] Sports Entertainment Package," the representative said.

The Big Ten should be happy with their 80% and the Comcast has a tool to have consumers upgrade to the next level. All three sides lost in this contest in the piddling match. If there is a party that miscalculated it must be the Big Ten Network that overvalued their product as a “must have”. Had the strategy been better thought out they might have come in with an initial low price to gain wide distribution and then overtime worked up in that cable carriage rate pecking order. BTN's our way or nothing was the line in the sand that acted as a significant barrier to progress in this conflict. Negotiations of any kind make little or no progress when one side puts absolutes in the way. Perhaps this deal could have been in place last August had BTN been willing to take 80% of a big pie.

One final observation about this issue—Did you notice how the political grandstanding end after the football season?


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