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Nation & World

Comcast Xfinity dumping Big Ten Network in much of U.S.

Comcast says it is dropping the Big Ten Network, co-owned by the 14 conference schools and Fox, from its Xfinity service in states without Big Ten schools.

While Chicago-area Xfinity subscribers will not be affected, the move means fans and alumni who are Comcast customers in so-called “out-of-market” areas would lose access to the channel.

Comcast explicitly has said Xfinity customers in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania will be safe from its unilateral move. Xfinity service is not available in Nebraska and Iowa.

But conflicting information spread via social media Thursday, with company statements sometimes at odds with what Comcast’s customer relations people apparently were telling stunned subscribers.

“We evaluate our channel lineups regularly,” a Comcast spokesman said by email Friday, explaining the move. “We weigh several factors in making decisions like this, ranging from the costs programmers charge us to carry their channels and the amount of viewership to available alternatives.”

Xfinity subscribers in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia will be considered part of Maryland’s market. Comcast also said it’s including Delaware, which is adjacent to Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Much has been made of the fact New York state is considered out of market. New York’s wealth of potential viewers was part of the conference’s calculus in adding New Jersey’s Rutgers University in 2014, along with the University of Maryland. Further staking its claim to the New York market, the Big Ten staged its men’s basketball tournament last month at Madison Square Garden.

But Comcast’s spokesman pointed out it does not serve the New York City market, so this move should not affect people there.

The Big Ten has millions of alumni, many scattered across the country. Although the conference has events on national outlets such as ESPN, ABC, Fox, FS1 and CBS, BTN televises conference competition and programming across an array of sports.

Some Xfinity customers in out-of-market states reportedly have already lost the channel.

“The outpouring of concern and outrage from fans nationwide speaks for itself,” Big Ten Network said in a statement.

“BTN is a valuable part of Comcast’s sports lineup, and we share their frustration.”

philrosenthal@chicagotribune.com

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