A source close to the talks confirmed that Comcast and Big Ten Network are close to a carriage deal that will put the sports network into about 5 million homes for what is described as an extended-basic preview, but one that will last probably from August (the beginning of football season) through March (college basketball).
After that, the network could be moved to a digital tier.
According to the source, Comcast will be paying "on the low side" of a 70- to 80-cent-per-subscriber price for the channel, down from the reported $1.10 Big Ten Network had been asking.
Big Ten Network is a co-venture between the Big Ten Conference and Fox.
The deal, which has not yet been signed on the dotted line, is confined to the eight-state area hosting Big Ten college sports teams, with Comcast able to carry the network on a sports tier outside of those markets, according to the source.
Access to sports programming, and whether that is on a basic or separate sports tier, has been a big issue in Washington. Last summer, Democratic House Energy & Commerce chairman John Dingell of Michigan (Big Ten territory), pushed the conference for answers on the status of negotiations with cable networks.
If the Comcast deal goes through, it would be the first major cable deal for Big Ten Network, which already has a carriage deal with DirecTV.
Look for Comcast to make note of the pending deal with the sports network when it responds this week to a carriage complaint from NFL Network, another sports network seeking basic carriage on Comcast.