Comcast Loses, But Wins Because They Say So [I'm Confused Too]

Why will no one, and I mean no one, even make an attempt to explore the facts of this agreement? After months of bashing Comcast and piling on the Big Ten in the newspapers, after all the time and effort that was put into high horsed rants, you'd think one guy would try and break down the agreement for their readers. Unfortunately, all we get is more of this crap:

Hey Big Ten fans, this deal should make you nervous.  I have only one thing to say about the Big Ten Network's deal with Comcast: "Whether you're a superfan or a budget-conscious consumer, this isn't fair."

That last sentence is in quotes because he pulled it from one of the internet's most misleading and flat out stupid web sites: puttingfansfirst.org.  I'd explore this further but nothing that follows really links to this supposed thesis.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, said its network absolutely, positively, had to be on expanded basic. And the Big Ten gave in, too. In the spring of 2009, Comcast can move the network to a digital tier.

Right, a digital tier that will keep the BTN in over 80% of footprint houses and have no effect on the number of subscribers in non-footprint houses. This is the same 80% that will probably become 95% in under five years because of the appeal of DVR and the overall, non-BTN related push by Comcast for all of their subscribers to move to digital.

But Big Ten representatives were far more honest about their goals than the Comcast people were. And that's why this deal should make you nervous.

That makes no sense.

After all this haggling, we still don't know what Comcast's goals are. Yeah, sure, we know that Comcast wants trucks full of suitcases full of oodles of piles of cash.

Is Dennis Dodd writing this article?  Did he really just say one thing and then say the exact opposite without so much as a line break?  And how is Comcast working negotiations to maximize profit different than what every single publicly traded corporation does?  Why in the world am I nervous?

It is tempting to say that viewers will decide -- that if there is enough interest in the Big Ten Network, Comcast will put it on expanded basic. That makes sense to a degree: Comcast will supply what the customers demand.

Let's be very clear about this: Comcast does not give a damn about their customers. They didn't care when millions of people wrote to complain when the BTN was totally blacked out on their network, and they sure aren't going to care when a very small fraction of that number write in to whine about this. The 20% who are affected are a lot more likely to simply upgrade than cross their fingers and write letters with nasty words in them.  This is, of course, exactly what Comcast wants.  Putting the network on expanded basic only decreases the amount of money they make, it has no effect on the amount of expenses they incur.  Besides, most people don't have a lot of cable options; Comcast has little incentive to actually care about what their customers think.

The SEC, by the way, is likely to decide very soon whether to launch its own network. That might explain why Comcast is putting the Big Ten Network on a one-year trial. Comcast can maintain the threat of demoting the Big Ten Network. And that threat could scare the SEC into signing a deal with Comcast.   [emphasis mine]

This deal, along with the existing non-Comcast agreements, means that the BTN is going to be available on expanded basic to 13 million subscribers in the footprint and 42 million non-footprint subscribers through the sports tier. If Comcast follows through in this apparently terrible threat of "demoting" the BTN, it will be available on expanded basic to 12 million subscribers in the footprint and 42 million non-footprint subscribers through the sports tier.  For those of you who learn better through charts:

Area Pre-Demotion Post Demotion % Change
Footprint 13 million 12 million 8%
Non-Footprint 42 million 42 million 0%
Total 55 million 54 million 2%

I apologize if I took the doomsday out of your story but I just don't see it. I'm left sitting here asking myself it you lied to us on purpose to setup a punchline or if you are just too lazy to actually read the agreement.

Comcast is in this to win.

And Comcast gets to define winning.

Stay tuned -- if Comcast will let you.

He actually spaced his sentences like that.

This is really why I wrote this post: I'm tired of reading stories about this agreement in which the author miscommunicate facts, or simply lies, in order to fit the deal into some type of preconceived opinion about what is actually going on. I'd love to play along and join in the suspense, but the deal is done and I'm afraid we are all going to have to start coming up with new material.

Why? Because Comcast was pwned. They not only compromised on their highest offer of 25 cents a subscriber, they also totally caved on 98% of the distribution issues. 

And there is a bigger picture here: Comcast's total submission means that the other cable companies, which represent about half of the total cable subscribers in the country, are going to have to give into the exact same demands as Comcast. It's twice as nice for the Big Ten.

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