The Big Ten Network could be unavailable to more than 2 million viewers when the 2012 college football season kicks off in six days’ time.
Late last week, the Big Ten began notifying its member schools that negotiations between its flagship network and DISH Network over a new contract might not reach a conclusion by Friday, when the pair’s original five-year agreement ends. Approximately 2.5 million DISH Network subscribers have the Big Ten Network in their package, according to Jeremy Gray, Indiana’s assistant athletic director for broadcast services.
The impasse, Gray said, is a basic one.
“Just how much they’re willing to pay for the Big Ten Network,” he said of DISH’s primary concern.
The two sides have until Friday to work out some kind of arrangement, but the situation might be more dire than minor disagreements over language or details.
A source familiar with the situation said that while the Big Ten is not in any way walking away from the negotiations, the conference is preparing for the possibility of its network not being available on DISH by Saturday.
Gray said the conference is working hard on a resolution by the end of the week, so that those subscribing to DISH don’t lose the four games scheduled to air on the Big Ten Network. Indiana’s season opener against Indiana State is one of those four games.
“They’re going to continue to negotiate up to the first game,” Gray said.
If the two sides were to stay at loggerheads through the coming weekend, this would be the second publicized impasse between the cable carrier and one of its preferred channels. DISH has been at odds with AMC since the beginning of July. DISH has, in the past, found itself in disagreements with several networks and cable channels, including Fox and The Weather Channel.
In an FAQ published on its website, the Big Ten Network says it has offered “proposals to DISH that are consistent with the current market value for” the network.
“Unfortunately, DISH is insisting on preferential treatment, seeking terms that are significantly below market value,” the site reads.
With six days left until the start of the 2012 college football season, the situation does not appear to be leaning to one resolution or another, but the Big Ten is preparing for any eventuality. Speaking with the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Elizabeth Conlisk, the network’s vice president of communications and university relations, said the Big Ten is prepared for any eventuality.
“At this point, we’re pretty far apart,” Conlisk told the Gazette. “It looks like (DISH) could stop carrying BTN.”
Fans wishing for more information from the Big Ten’s perspective can visit: www.iwantbtn.com. A call to DISH Network seeking comment on the matter was not returned as of the publishing of this story.
Reached Sunday afternoon, John Hall, a spokesperson for DISH Network, provided the following statement to 247Sports:
“We’re always open to proposals that offer or customers high-quality programming at a good value. That is the position that we take with really any programmer that we work with.”
Hall said he could not discuss in detail any ongoing negotiations between DISH and the Big Ten Network. He said he was not able to comment on what might currently be blocking a deal between the two sides, and that he was not aware of whether any DISH customers had registered comments or complaints about the situation.
“I think the most important message I‘d like to get across is that we do work with numerous programmers,” Hall said, “and we always approach those with the goal of getting high-quality programming at a good value for our subscribers.”
Fans searching for more information on where they can find the Big Ten Network, on DISH Network or elsewhere ahead of Saturday’s games, should visit www.iwantbtn.com.