MetroCast Cable subscribers in Pennsylvania will have to get their Big Ten fix somewhere else.
The major cable service provider, which serves most of the Northeast and some parts of the south, has been unable to reach an agreement with the Big Ten Network and was forced to drop the channel from its provider list in the Commonwealth.
According to MetroCast spokesman Andy Walton, the company couldn’t reach an agreement with Fox Entertainment Group, a 51 percent owner of BTN, to continue programming.
“The contract with Fox for the carriage of BTN expired on Aug. 31,” Walton said. “Despite our efforts to reach a mutual, beneficial agreement, Fox did not renew our contract and required MetroCast to cease distribution of the network on that date.”
Currently, MetroCast and Fox are not in discussions to return the channel to the company’s channel list. When asked about a possibility of getting BTN back on MetroCast Walton said, “We are no longer in discussions with Fox regarding carriage of the channel.”
MetroCast’s coverage extends throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. The local towns include Dallas, Nanticoke, Shavertown, Sheatown, Berwick, Freeland, Hazleton, Glen Lyon, Hunlock Creek, Larksville, Plymouth and many others.
Many Penn State fans and Big Ten fans, in general, throughout the area have voiced their opinion, including Shavertown resident Fran Calpin.
Calpin, who admits the Big Ten Network has become one of his most-watched channels, realized he lost the channel on Sunday night. Calpin called MetroCast customer service on Monday and was told the Big Ten Network is no longer available.
“I’ve been watching it quite a bit over the past few years,” he said. “I’m disappointed, and it was becoming a part of my regular viewing habits.”
Walton did make it clear that MetroCast has provided many new channels to its subscribers this year, including FXX, Root Sports HD, PCN HD, and several HD channels in general. He said in an environment of rising programming cost, the objective is to always provide a lineup to appeal to a wide range of interest, while managing cost on behalf of customers.
“Whatever dispute they are having, they need to come to a resolution on behalf of the customers,” Calpin said. “There are quite a few people that watch it.”
It doesn’t look like that is a possibility.
The Big Ten Network was launched on Aug. 30, 2007. It is owned by the Big Ten Conference (49 percent) and Fox Entertainment Group (51 percent). It was the first internationally distributed network dedicated to covering a single collegiate athletic conference.
The network has been in the news as of late. In June, the Big Ten Network reached an agreement with Cablevision and Time Warner Cable. In early July, BTN reached an agreement with Comcast that will bring the network to households in Maryland and New Jersey.
Calpin did say, however, he probably will not change service providers because of the other channels he enjoys getting such as Comcast Sports Network and Root Sports.
“If the erosion of service continues, I would switch,” he said. “I’m just disappointed and frustrated.”
In most of the Wyoming Valley MetroCast coverage area, if you subscribe to the Basic Digital package, the newly-formed SEC Network is available. That network operates out of the South Eastern Conference. Walton said the two networks are not related and have nothing to do with each other. The two are also different tiers of service.
Customers will be notified of the change within the next few days, if they haven’t been already.
“Customers have just been notified over the last month,” Walton said. “It’s been a recent decision. We know it will be disappointing to fans of BTN.”
A spokesperson from the Big Ten Network could not be reached for comment.