In a world where content is king, probably nothing matches the audience appeal and leverage power of sports programming. Most people want to watch sports live (a boon to advertisers) and there are rabid fans at all levels, from high school athletics to professional-league games.
Witness the recent hullabaloo over the Big Ten Network (BTN). BTN has decided to launch this Thursday on AT&T’s U-verse service. Neatly left out of the launch party is cable giant Comcast. Comcast wants to stick BTN on its sports tier, while BTN has argued it should be placed on the extended basic service tier, which has a much larger audience. The companies are at an impasse, and BTN believes it can hold out because AT&T offers a nice alternative. In other words, Comcast isn’t the only game in town.
Of course for consumers the result is that a lot of people are going to miss out on Big Ten games. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune uses the issue to argue for a-la-carte pricing, but of course there are problems with that approach, as EngadgetHD covered recently. Still I hope somebody finds a reasonable solution for getting regional sports games, particularly out of market. Oh wait, isn’t there something called a Slingbox?
UPDATE: Comcast fights back with free on-demand coverage of
Big Ten team Notre Dame.