I don’t much care to join the debate over whether the Big Ten Network is in the wrong or Comcast should be blamed for the cable provider’s ongoing refusal to carry the Big Ten Network. Regardless of who is ultimately to blame — and the likely truth is that it’s both of ’em to some degree — I’m still without the Big Ten Network, despite reports that the two sides are close to agreement. The only one getting screwed in this process is me, the fan.
And Comcast hasn’t improved its Q rating by choosing not to pick up an extra twenty Cardinals games that Fox Sports Midwest is offering. On Tuesday night I waited with bated breath for the first-place Cardinals to take on the second-place Brewers. After all, this was the first time in the last fifty years (and, quite possibly, ever) of Major League Baseball that two opposing teams would each bat the pitcher eighth in the order. (Yes, these are the sorts of thrills that I look forward to on a daily basis.)
Then came game time, and, no baseball on the TV. The game had been blacked out. Furious, I called Comcast and was told by a representative that the fault belonged to Fox Sports, who had blacked out the game for — and I paraphrase — advertising reasons. The reasoning provided was that the channel couldn’t raise enough advertising revenue in my market and had decided not to broadcast the game in markets other than St. Louis and Milwaukee. That sounded like a big fat lie. I watch just about every Cardinals game, and if the network could get enough ad revenue when the Cards were playing the Marlins or the Nationals, then surely it could get enough revenue when the team was playing a conference rival who happened to be competing for first place with us. Plus, I couldn’t recall many — if any — games from the previous season that had been blacked out when Insight was still in control.
So I did some homework. Two hours later I had determined from speaking to those who live nearby and have a satellite dish that the game was indeed being carried on Fox Sports Midwest and they were indeed watching it. I posted a query on a Cardinals web forum and Cardinal Nation promptly responded with a link to an article in the Bloomington-Normal daily, The Pantagraph, from that day. The headline: “Comcast nixes 20 Cardinal telecasts.” The short of it is that Fox Sports Midwest offers 110 broadcasts for a set rate. Comcast pays for these telecasts. However, Fox Sports also offers an additional 20 games — ensuring that nearly every Cardinals game will be broadcast on TV when coupled with cable channel CW’s weekend broadcasts and a handful of national broadcasts — for an additional fee. According to the article, “About 90 percent of FSN Midwest’s cable subscribers in the Cardinals territory agreed to offer all 130 games, including DirecTV, Dish Network, and Mediacom.” But not Comcast.
So the cable giant, which recently sent me notice of a rate hike, wasn’t going to play nice. I called back with my new information in hand and spent five minutes griping to another representative, who was surely tired of fielding similar calls from annoyed subscribers like myself. I demanded a credit to my account, and after being put on hold for nearly five minutes, I got one. Twelve dollars richer, I finished my huffing and puffing and headed to the Esquire to watch the end of the game on the bar’s new (finally!) high-definition flat screens. I followed suit on Wednesday night. All told, I spent nearly three times my refund to watch my beloved Cardinals. Spending more to watch the programs I want to see has become a trend, as I have found myself at local watering holes numerous times over the past several months to watch Illini football and basketball games that were carried on the Big Ten Network.
Moving forward, that trend will likely change. If Comcast and the BTN don’t settle by early summer, I’m pulling up stakes and switching to a satellite provider. No one is going to deprive me of the opportunity to watch some mediocre basketball. Or, in the case of Wednesday night’s baseball game, some fabulous pitching (and hitting) by Adam Wainwright. I know I’m behind the curve when it comes to those making the switch from cable to satellite. But be warned, Comcast, I’m about ready to find a new pig to feed.