Big Ten Calls EchoStar Filing 'Brazen' Ploy

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The Big Ten Network reiterated Wednesday that it is a national, not regional, sports network and called EchoStar's suggestion it was not a "brazen attempt to increase its negotiating leverage."

The Big Ten Network is co-owned by News Corp. When that company bought DirecTV from Hughes--it is now trying to sell it to Liberty--the FCC conditioned the deal on the requirement that any News Corp.-owned regional sports networks would have to negotiate in good faith with competing distributors, like EchoStar, or the FCC could step in.

EchoStar, which has failed to reach a deal with Big Ten after almost three months of negotiation, asked the FCC to rule that the network was a regional sports net, not a national one, and that the FCC was empowered to intervene and force outside arbitration per the News Corp-Hughes conditions.

EchoStar did not invoke that right of arbitration, saying instead that it just wanted the FCC to make it clear that the satelite company had that card to play.

The Big Ten Network saw that filing, instead, as a play for the upper hand in the stalled negotiations. “The impact and influence of Big Ten institutions upon the national athletic and academic arena is considerable, and EchoStar states that the Big Ten Network is highly valued by its consumers," said the network in a statement Wednesday.

"We would agree, which is exactly why empowering the public with widespread access to these institutions remains our goal. We also agree with EchoStar’s premise supporting the compelling nature and value that the Big Ten Network provides to all satellite and cable distributors, but we must conclude that EchoStar’s petition is a brazen attempt to increase its negotiating leverage over the Big Ten Network and the institutions it represents.

"The News Corp – Hughes order has never placed any of the requirements EchoStar alleges on any of News Corp’s national television networks and, so, is equally inapplicable here."

Big Ten said it was willing to continue talking. "We look forward to continuing constructive and, ultimately, productive discussions with EchoStar in support of the Big Ten Network.”

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