Mass appeal? (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday June 26, 2007 12:48PM; Updated: Tuesday June 26, 2007 5:09PM
Among those who have balked at the Big Ten's demands is cable behemoth Comcast, the largest provider in the eight states with Big Ten universities (5.7 million subscribers). Last week, in a conference call intended to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the network, Delany spent much of his allotted time condemning a Comcast senior executive for his derogatory comments Delany said he'd read in a recent Times article about the channel. Delany seemed most bent out of shape about a quote that referenced the "Iowa women's volleyball team" while calling the Big Ten Network's proposed offerings as "second-tier."
It's easy to see how the comment -- at least the way Delany interpreted it -- could be viewed as sexist and insulting, even if the team in question was presumably meant as a random example. There was one, small problem, however -- the Comcast executive in question, David Cohen, said no such thing. When the Times reporter who wrote the story called in to clarify, Delany insisted he must have read the comments in "another publication."
Delany had apparently confused the article with a memo Comcast recently circulated entitled "Get the Real Facts about the Big Ten Network," which included the following line: "Indiana basketball fans don't want to pay to watch Iowa volleyball."
Without the gender reference, and when placed in that context, the comment quickly goes from the realm of inflammatory to ... well, the truth.
'We'd like to make the network available to those who want to watch it," Cohen told the Times, "and not force customers who have no interest in the content to have to pay for it.''
Of course, Delany knows the main lure of his channel won't be volleyball but football, as in the 35 regular-season games the network is showing this season (ABC will still get first choice of Big Ten games each week, with a rotating selection order involving ESPN, ESPN2 and the Big Ten Network after that). The network's opening-weekend slate features all three of the league's most recognizable powerhouses, Ohio State (vs. Youngstown State), Michigan (vs. Appalachian State) and Penn State (vs. Florida International). Numerous times during the conference call, Delany balked at Comcast's appraisal of the network's offering as "second and third-tier events."
"Games at Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State -- I don't care who the opponents are, those are not second-tier games."
But Delany did not stop there. Moments after his conference call ended, the conference sent out a written statement from Delany. "I believe Comcast owes every Big Ten university an apology," it read. "... There are no second-rate contests in the Big Ten."
Sorry to burst your bubble, commissioner, but if Northeastern at Northwestern, Eastern Illinois at Purdue and The Citadel at Wisconsin don't qualify as second-rate events, I'd hate to see what does.
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