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July 24, 2018

Mark Silverman

Chicago, Illinois

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Mark Silverman.

MARK SILVERMAN: Good morning. I always enjoy coming here and speaking to this group. For the past 11 years I've been doing this, and all of us at BTN have been really thrilled for all the coverage we provide for all the 14 Big Ten universities.

The network has grown significantly over the years. We're always looking to add more games, show some interesting stories and do all we can to represent our schools and our conference in a way that viewers, alumni, fans and students will enjoy.

And all these groups have responded to our efforts. The network has enjoyed growing ratings, numerous awards and become a key part of football Saturday to Big Ten fans.

Our training camp shows have been a recent addition to our programming. We proudly offer this year's version, Gold and Black Days, featuring the improved Purdue football program.

The show will debut on August 14th and run for four weeks up until the first week of football season. In addition, a new season of The Journey and a new season of Campus Eats will be back along with the latest edition of our Big Ten Elite Series this time focusing on the 1997 Nebraska football team.

This past year alone BTN was nominated for national sports Emmy award for the feature, The Reason I Play, and we also won a national Murrow Award for The Journey piece on the Iowa Wave.

Despite the growth and success, BTN is now facing our biggest challenge since the launch of the network. Our ten-year agreement with Comcast expires at the end of August. A few months ago, BTN was removed from out of market cable systems on Comcast, which is the leading cable provider in the country.

Upon learning of the impending removal, we immediately reached out to Comcast in an effort to keep the network on the air. Comcast was intent on dropping BTN and refused to listen to our plea.

Unlike the usual scenario in these carriage disputes, there is no economic benefit to Comcast at all to do this and removed BTN from their systems outside the Big Ten area, which begs the question: Why did they do this?

Well, within the Big Ten footprint, Comcast systems are also the primary cable provider. In fact, 10 of the 14 schools in the Big Ten are markets where Comcast is the leading cable provider. Basically everyone except for Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa. Every other school Comcast is the leading cable provider.

Unfortunately, my fear is the removal of BTN in the outer market may just be the first step in Comcast's plan to remove BTN from their systems everywhere, including the Big Ten home markets.

Now, in addition to the BTN agreement expiring, so is the agreement for all Big Ten games that air on FS1. BTN and FS1 have made proposal to Comcast dating back to February, and we've had no substantive response at all.

As a result, we believe BTN and those Big Ten games that are on FS1 are in danger of not being carried on Comcast this coming season. So we are letting people know this to alert Comcast subscribers of this real possibility they may lose these games.

The good news is that Comcast will be alone if they decide to drop BTN and those Big Ten games on FS1. These games are available on many different television providers, cable, satellite and the new Internet providers as well, and viewers will have no problem finding alternative providers in their area.

BTN and FS1 are expected to televise approximately 60 games this year, close to two-thirds of all football games in the Big Ten. In addition, BTN and FS1 will air 22 of the first 24 games for those 10 schools that are in the Comcast markets.

If you look at our schedule, BTN is looking to have five games. BTN and FS1 together will have five games on week one. There will be seven games in week two. Week three shows a total of 10 games on BTN and FS1. And as you look to week four, which has not yet been set, but as we project out based on where the selections are, every single conference football game on week four will air on BTN or FS1, including all the Big Ten markets that I referenced before.

Now, we're going to continue to negotiate in good faith with Comcast in an effort to bring BTN and the Big Ten games and FS1 to all our fans and alumni viewers across the country.

To learn more, we urge you and our fans and viewers to go to keepbigten.com where they can learn more as we continue on with this process.

With that, I'll open up for questions.

Q. It sounded like you said that Comcast did not even respond to you. So I'm curious, how are you negotiating if they're not talking to you? If it doesn't make sense financially for them, did they give you any reason whatsoever?
MARK SILVERMAN: I don't know what makes sense financially for Comcast. We are -- I'm feeling with a little over five weeks left before football season, we should be much further along than we are.

It's extremely concerning. I've gone through this with them 10 years ago. And I can't predict what their motivations are. I don't know what their motivations are.

We are -- we believe a strong value product especially in our Big Ten area. We know we rate among the highest of all sports networks in our area. We believe we've given viewers and fans a lot of fantastic moments covering the Big Ten over the past 10 years, and we believe we should be in every single cable lineup across the country, including Comcast. And we hope to be able to do that.

Q. You said every game on September 22nd is on either BTN or FS1. That's, I think, uncommon. How did that come to be? And is that a way of leveraging Comcast?
MARK SILVERMAN: It's not every game. I believe there's a game or two that did fall to ESPN that week. The way the selection process works, it will typically be all the networks with at least a game or so each week.

So the selection process was done a while ago, we try to get the best games to air on Fox Sports 1 and Fox and BTN, and it's kind of the way the process has always worked, where you select the games and you try to put the best games you can on your own networks.

Q. About the digital platforms and the transitioning, as you projected going forward in the future, whether it's five years or ten years, negotiations with Comcast might become almost obsolete. How do you envision that kind of progressing as we go forward from here?
MARK SILVERMAN: We believe currently the best way to distribute our product is through all the different cable and satellite and digital providers that are out there.

We think with the advance of a lot of the digital companies that we have deals with, there are a lot of options that offer BTN in a variety of ways.

We're comfortable with this newer method of distributing BTN digitally through these other providers. But we do believe in the value of offering consumers a variety of different networks together.

And we obviously are going to keep our eyes open as things evolve in the industry. And there's a lot of movement, as you're kind of alluding to.

So we're going to look to distribute our network to as many people as possible, given our existing deals and given the basic tenor of the network.

Q. Looking again at that graphic on September 22nd, Nebraska-Michigan and Iowa-Wisconsin were both FS1 games, at least according to the graphic. Is that just a placeholder, or did FS1 actually get both of those games?
MARK SILVERMAN: At this point, whether those games -- there's opportunity for Wisconsin-Iowa to end up on Fox, but the Nebraska-Michigan game as of today is planned to be on FS1.


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