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CSTV game broadcast limits watch options

Aaron Steiner | Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Channel surfing, adjusting your antenna and even smacking the television set will not gain most local Notre Dame fans access to Saturday’s Notre Dame-Air Force game.

The game will be aired on the CSTV network – a channel that is solely available in select cable markets throughout the nation, excluding Notre Dame’s campus and the South Bend area.

CSTV – a three-year-old college sports network owned by CBS Corporation – has rights to the game through a contract with the Mountain West Conference, of which Air Force is a member.

This marks the first time since the Oct. 31, 1992 Notre Dame-Navy game that a Notre Dame football game will not be available on NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN. The 1992 Navy game was broadcast locally by WNDU.

On Saturday, however, South Bend Comcast Cable will not air the game locally. Fans can visit UND.com or CSTV.com to watch the game.

Viewers who sign up before Saturday’s game will pay $14.95, and those who sign up after the game begins will pay $19.95, said vice president of communications for CBS Sports and spokesperson for CSTV Leslie Ann Wade.

Although “sitting in front of your television is more comfortable than sitting in front of your computer,” she said, CSTV has had positive response to past online broadcasts of sporting events.

Notre Dame’s senior associate athletic director John Heisler said there is no record of the last time a Notre Dame game was not televised on campus or locally.

Notre Dame has no control over broadcast rights of away games, he said.

“The home team owns the rights to the game,” he said. “The visiting team has nothing to say about it.”

Heisler said it was “kind of a coincidence” that CSTV had recently signed a broadcast contract with the Mountain West Conference. If the game had been played last year, he said, a major network would have aired the game.

CSTV is offering a ‘free preview’ for cable and satellite companies in areas where CSTV is distributed from 7 p.m. Friday until midnight Sunday, however local Comcast customers will not be able to take advantage of this preview.

Comcast Cable spokesperson Angie Anores said Comcast in the South Bend area will not offer the preview this weekend.

“CSTV is only offering that free preview to those [affiliates] that already distribute CSTV,” Anores said, and Comcast Cable in the South Bend area does not currently distribute CSTV.

Comcast in the South Bend area is evaluating CSTV in addition to two other college sports networks, ESPNU and the Big Ten Channel, Anores said.

CSTV is normally seen in about 15 million homes, and this weekend the channel will be available in at least 37 million households, Wade said.

“It’s a tremendous disappointment that this game won’t be available to every viewer,” Wade said. “Nobody at CSTV” would not want to make this game available to the fans, she said.

Heisler said the free way to enjoy the Notre Dame game is through a radio broadcast.

Westwood One, the radio network that owns the radio broadcast rights to all Notre Dame football games, broadcasts in all 50 states on over 300 affiliates, he said.

While this is a rare case for Irish fans, he said, it is not atypical for the rest of collegiate football teams.

“All of our fans … have been extremely fortunate,” Heisler said. “The fact that all of the games [since 1992] have been available on major networks is semi-remarkable.”