Cut like a running back through the rampant rhetoric between the Big Ten Network and cable MSOs, and you’ll find a Midwest carriage field that could soon get cable play. Fox National Cable Sports Networks president Bob Thompson said that "some [major cable] negotiations are in the 4th quarter" and that the tipping point will occur this week with college football’s kick off. In fact, Fox will staff its offices with extra personnel this weekend, expecting a flood of calls from consternated fans that can’t watch conference tilts. An industry source said MSOs anticipate a similar response, which will add weight to the net’s call for fans to pressure cable ops for carriage. That pressure now includes net ads throughout the 8-state conference footprint telling fans where to find games, even urging them to jettison their cable provider for current net teammates including DirecTV and AT&T. The latter touted Mon U-verse TV availability of the net through either a $44/month programming package or a $10/month add-on sports package. The telco has a video presence in Big Ten strongholds Detroit and Ann Arbor, MI, as well as in WI, OH and IN. As for carriage on sports tiers within conference states, "it’s not even something that we consider, and we have no plans to consider it," said Thompson. MSOs such as Time Warner Cable, Charter and Insight haven’t disclosed details of talks with BTN despite published statements in favor of such tiering. Thompson admitted the need to be "very patient" while working toward certain distribution goals. Comcast, for one, is expected to stand tough, with a spokesperson reiterating Mon that "we simply cannot allow Fox and the Big Ten to burden all of our customers. At this point, we have had very little customer reaction." Other MSOs say they haven’t spoken with many disgruntled Big Ten fans, either. Of note: 83% (1.5K) of those polled by a Columbus, OH, NBC affiliate said they aren’t willing to pay extra to see BTN on basic cable. But Saturday may kick off a whole new ballgame.

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