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Judd Zulgad: Network gets its own day in Minneapolis

  • Article by: Judd Zulgad
  • Star Tribune
  • September 27, 2007 - 11:28 PM

Here's one of the more unusual press releases that has arrived in the e-mail in-box. Mayor R.T. Rybak has decided to proclaim today "Minnesota Big Ten Network Day" in Minneapolis.

That's right, the network that the majority of viewers in Rybak's city don't receive is getting its own day. What's next? Victory Sports day? If I'm a former member of the Twins' once fledgling and now deceased television venture, I'm wondering where local government was when my network was going under.

Considering the ongoing feud over distribution between the Big Ten Network and Minneapolis cable provider Comcast, this is a curious move. Rybak's chief of staff, Tina Smith, wrote in an e-mail that "this proclamation should not be construed as support for the Big Ten Network in their negotiations with Comcast, because the mayor has no position on these negotiations, nor will he take a position."

Smith points out that mayors in cities such as Ann Arbor, Des Moines and Bloomington, Ind., have done similar proclamations and that Rybak's "only interest is in promoting the University of Minnesota."

But how can this not come off as a sign of support for the Big Ten Network? The only people that can see the network in Minneapolis are DirecTV and Dish Network customers; neither of those companies is in business with the city. Comcast, meanwhile, has a franchise agreement to serve Minneapolis.

Comcast officials elected to remain diplomatic Thursday, although behind the scenes they are believed to be seething.

"We are Gopher fans and have always said we would add the network immediately as part of our sports entertainment package, making it available for customers who really want it, but not forcing it on customers who would rather not pay more for it," said Mary Beth Schubert, Comcast's vice president of corporate affairs.

Said Smith in her e-mail: "The Mayor's proclamation communicates his support for the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten Network's commitment to equal network coverage for men's and women's sports, as well as national access to conference sports, events, shows, and original programming on academics and the arts and sciences."

It might not have been intentional, but it also communicates that he has taken sides in this situation.

Fine-tuning

• Joe Theismann, who was taken off "Monday Night Football" after last season but remained under contract with ESPN, has reached a settlement to leave the network, according to an ESPN spokesman.

• Frank Thomas of the Toronto Blue Jays will join host Ernie Johnson and analyst Cal Ripken as part of Turner's studio team for its coverage of baseball's division series and the National League Championship Series. This will be the first of a seven-year agreement that will place first-round series' on TBS. TNT also will be used if there are conflicts.

• The "Sports Show" on WUCW (Ch. 23) has moved from 11:05 p.m. to 10:35 p.m. on Sundays.

• Former Wild defenseman Brad Bombardir will again serve as a rink-side reporter for select telecasts on KSTC (Ch. 45) this season. Bombardir's first assignment will be next Thursday's opener against Chicago.

• The Wild and Timberwolves each will have 10 games aired in high definition this season on FSN North. The Wild's first two HD games will be Oct. 10 vs. Edmonton and Oct. 21 vs. Colorado. The Wolves' initial HD appearance will be Nov. 6 vs. Orlando. The Wild also will have three games on KSTP (Ch. 5) this season that will be shown in HD (Feb. 24 vs. Calgary, March 9 vs. San Jose and April 6th at Colorado).

• KSTP sports-talk host Matt Thomas is no longer a candidate for the Timberwolves' radio play-by-play position. According to Thomas, station officials and the Wolves met to talk about potential options that would satisfy both sides -- the Wolves are heard on BOB 106-FM -- but could not come to an agreement.

Judd Zulgad • jzulgad@startribune.com

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