Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why Is The Big Ten Network A Good Thing Again?

If you haven't read, the Big Ten Network is the best thing to happen to the Big Ten since Jim Wacker was forced out of Minnesota.

No, really, it's going to be great. Ask Marcus Fuller at the Pioneer Press. You'll realize once you read Fuller's article that very little time is actually spent spelling out what the Big Ten Network will be, and considerable time is spent perfecting the art of stenography.

Oh, the Big Ten Network will be good for recruiting you say Mr. Tubby Smith. Well, then, why not report that.

The Big Ten Network, scheduled to launch in August, plans to give more national television exposure to Big Ten Conference teams as well as expand regional coverage for regular-season and conference games. Smith talked at a news conference Tuesday about what kind of impact the new network would have on his program.

"I feel it gives us a lot to sell in the recruiting area when we go into homes and legitimately say that this is something no other conference has," he said. "Say there's a kid in Atlanta now or in California or wherever in the States. Families can see him play. Fans and relatives can see him play. That's going to be a critical piece when we go out there and sell Minnesota basketball."

That would all be great if it was 100 percent accurate. As it is now, Big Ten fans across the country, whether they are in SEC territory or out west, can see every game of every Big Ten team. Fuller doesn't explain this, but all games, it doesn't apppear, will not be available for every fan. Fuller does note, albeit briefly, that the Big Ten Network right now is only affiliated with DirecTV. Those of you on Comcast or some other cable provider--and this goes for Tubby's recruits in Atlanta and California as well--there's no guarantee you are going to get the Big Ten Network.

This isn't to say the Big Ten Network is going to be a Jim Wacker-like failure. The point is, with just a few months until the network launches, many questions are unanswered. It's up to reporters like Fuller to ask the important questions. Thankfully, the Big Ten Network, in it's trip around the conference, stopped in Detroit this week. Detroit Free Press blogger Mark Snyder picks up the slack.

His primary explanation -- that the giant cable companies have bigger issues than simply adding another sports channel -- makes sense. And his plan to place the BTN on a variety of platforms, including video on demand, broadband content as well as the standard television network, is a response to a changing digital world, which complicates the larger negotiations.

But there are other questions. When BTN President Mark Silverman did a Q&A with, he made a long-winded statement that leads me, and a Michigan University blogger wondering if people living outside of the Big Ten's markets will be able to see our teams--as we can now. It's long. Apologies.

Silverman: The Gameplan package as you mentioned will no longer have the Iowa games. The important thing to understand is that every Iowa home game, and we have no control over away games, the deal the Big Ten Network has incorporates only home games. The second key piece is that games will either be part of the ESPN/ABC family of networks or the BTN. The first three weeks are selected during the summer, then they are done in a six to twelve day advance window. As we go forward, every game played in Iowa City will be owned if you will by ESPN/ABC or the BTN. If that game is aired as a part of the BTN, what I am pledging we will do, is that we will have one BTN game of the week. In addition to those games, we will have a regionalization. Where we can put the Iowa game on in Iowa. If you are not in Iowa, and the game of the week is say, Ohio State-Northwestern, and that is on the BTN, what we are offering to Direct TV, Comcast, Time Warner, Mediacom and everyone, are all of these games. So the BTN primary feed will be the game of the week, but in addition to that, we are making these games available as a part of carrying the network. So the cable provider or satellite operator will have the chance to air all of the games. So there will be a crawl on the main saying if you want to view another game, go to this channel.

So, just for kicks, let's pretend that Minnesota and Illinois are kicking off at Noon on a Saturday at the same time that Wisconsin and Michigan are in the BTN Game of the Week. While BTN says it will have a crawl on the screen to alert viewers where to go, what is the liklihood that a cable provider in Oklahoma, Los Angeles or Virginia is going to carry all of these games? Those of us outside Big Ten Country would like to know: Will we be able to see our team every week?

And about those recruits Tubby speaks of. Are they going to be able to watch Minnesota v. Wisconsin hoops on a Saturday at The Barn if Michigan State v. Illinois is the game of the week?

My take on this may be off, and if so, someone give me a heads up. But with the reporting done on the network so far, there are a lot of unanswered questions.


Anonymous said...

After researching the impact of BTN both in the 8 states of the Big Ten and those alums out side of that area, I have come to the conclusion that the BTN is BAD, BAD, BAD for tha unable-to-attend-live fans. You won't be able to have as many opportunities to see "your" team play, even if your provider carries BTN. The only way I have been able to counter this down-side is if BTN offered internet live game streaming a la ESPN GamePlan online. I have called BTN to suggest this but no announcement yet. I don't think they researched or planned this very well at all ! ! !