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Big Ten Commissioner Wants Apology from Comcast

"In the Midwest, when you're talking about a women's sports team, you talk about them with respect," Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday.

"In the Midwest, when you're talking about a women's sports team, you talk about them with respect," Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday.

June 21, 2007

  • Big Ten Network Commits to 'Event Equality'

    CHICAGO (AP) -- Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany said cable TV giant Comcast should apologize for remarks that he claimed were "intended to denigrate institutions and teams" in his conference.

    The Big Ten and Comcast are at odds over the price of the new network and whether it should be offered on basic cable.





    "In the Midwest, when you're talking about a women's sports team, you talk about them with respect. They're not second tier. Certainly, games at Michigan and Penn State and Ohio State - I don't care who the opponent is, those are not second-tier games. To the extent that those remarks were intended to denigrate institutions or teams or, in particular the women's volleyball team at Iowa, I think they ought to be rethought. I think if clarifications are necessary, that's fine. And really, if they were intended to denigrate, there ought to be an apology."
    Big Ten Conference Commissioner
    Jim Delany


    In a press release, Comcast said the network will show "second and third-tier sporting events," called it "a niche sports channel" and added: "Indiana basketball fans don't want to watch Iowa volleyball, but the Big Ten wants everyone to pay for their new network."

    Delany took exception during a conference call with reporters on Thursday - the one-year anniversary of the day the Big Ten announced plans to form the network.

    "In the Midwest, when you're talking about a women's sports team, you talk about them with respect," Delany said. "They're not second tier. Certainly, games at Michigan and Penn State and Ohio State - I don't care who the opponent is, those are not second-tier games. To the extent that those remarks were intended to denigrate institutions or teams or, in particular the women's volleyball team at Iowa, I think they ought to be rethought. I think if clarifications are necessary, that's fine. And really, if they were intended to denigrate, there ought to be an apology."

    Rich Ruggiero, a Comcast spokesman for the greater Chicago region, said the company was simply stating fact - that ABC and ESPN get the top games - and "was not denigrating anybody."

    The Big Ten Network, which is set to launch sometime in August, has agreements with about 40 smaller cable companies and DirecTV. But not Comcast, which has 5.7 million subscribers in the eight states with Big Ten schools.

    Delany is adamant that companies in Big Ten markets carry the network on basic cable. Comcast says the cost is too high and it should only be offered on its digital tier or as part of a subscription package.

    "We'd like to make the network available to those who want to watch it and not force customers who have no interest in the content to have to pay for it," David Cohen, an executive vice president of Comcast, told The New York Times this week.

    Delany, a Comcast subscriber, remains hopeful a deal can be reached.

    "But if I read again about the second-rate, second-tier women's volleyball team from Iowa as the centerpiece of our programming, I'm going to say the same thing I'm saying now," Delany said. "That is, I think it's inappropriate."

    The Chicago-based network, which is co-owned by the conference and Fox Sports, plans to show all the conference's football games that aren't broadcast elsewhere. It also plans to broadcast at least 105 regular-season men's basketball games, 55 regular-season women's games, 170 other events from sports such as softball and track, and Big Ten championships.

    The network owns the rights to tapes of Big Ten football and basketball back to 1960, allowing it to produce shows similar to those featured on ESPN Classic.

    Delany also said half the programming will be devoted to women's sports by the network's third year.




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