Comcast, Big Ten Network Near on HD Carriage Deal?

The Big Ten Network was reportedly close to signing a deal this week that would see the nation’s biggest cable operator carrying the network’s SD and HD sports channels, according to the Chicago Tribune and other sources.

The Big Ten typically is home to some of the highest-ranking college football and basketball teams in the country each season. The network also carries other Big Ten sports.

Talks between sports net and Comcast had broken down over an insistence by the cabler to place the Big Ten content on a premium sports tier; the network wanted to insure the widest possible audiences by placing its games on one of Comcast’s basic digital tiers.

The Tribune said one source close to the negotiations told it, “For all intents and purposes, it’s done.” The cable deal with Comcast would almost double the number of homes that the Big Ten Network passes—about 55 million, the network says—which would be nearly half of all U.S. TV households. For the time being, the network is expected to be carried on a basic tier, although not on a permanent basis.

Meanwhile, neither Time Warner Cable nor other cablers operating in loyal Big Ten markets have any publicly stated plans to add the Big Ten in the near future.