Jim Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference and the member schools decided to create a cable TV network to showcase the conference’s cash cows – football and basketball games.
Exclusive television deals aren’t unusual. Notre Dame has had an exclusive deal with NBC for many years to broadcast its football games each fall. What is different is that the Big Ten Network (BTN) will be on cable and no local broadcast stations will be able to show games slated for the BTN.
The network is slated to start on August 30th but as of now BTN only has coverage on 20% of the cable audience available in the conference’s region. One of major cable providers in Ohio – Time Warner – has refused to carry the channel.
The problem is that not only does BTN want to charge $1.10 per subscriber but also is insisting that cable providers put the channel on Basic cable. The cable providers say that BTN is a niche channel – that only a limited number of people would be interested and so it should be on a sports tier where fans would pay extra.
Delany and BTN President Mark Silverman countered:
…it’s ridiculous to banish BTN to a sports tier when channels such as Versus, the Golf Channel and Sports Time Ohio—not to mention Food Network, Animal Planet and HGTV—have homes on expanded basic.
“There’s already niche networks all over expanded basic,” Delany said. “I get 70 channels at home, and I watch about 12 of them.”
I don’t have a problem with the conference having a TV deal because such deals pass on funding to all member schools. I do think that such schools, a majority state supported, should not be allowed to put their games on cable TV. Such games should be available, for free, on TV.
I help pay for the programs through my tax dollars and I am being asked to pay for cable to see the games.