Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Waiting for the Big Ten Network? Don't hold your breath

The Big Ten Network: Only available in markets with a population of less than 5,000!

I saw a short blurb about the "Big Ten Network" in today's Freep, which read like a cut and paste job from a Big 10 press release. One line caught my eye...

"The network also announced verbal commitments with 75 cable providers -- up from the 40-50 it discussed last week."

That was good to read. Finally, we may get news if we'll actually get to see football in the fall. Up to this point, I'd heard bubkus from the Big 10 as to what cable companies would carry the B10N.

So, in looking for more info, I found the B10N's website, and started to poke around for broadcast information. What I found wasn't very encouraging to the vast majority of Big 10 fans.

Some of the local systems planning to carry Big Ten Network as part of their expanded basic level of service include Altatec Alta Municipal Utility, Cedar Falls Utilities, Celect Communications, Consolidated Communications Network Services, City of Wadsworth Cable TV, Dixon Telephone Company, Grundy Center Municipal, Harlan Municipal Utilities, Hiawatha Broadband, Horizon Telecom, Independence Communications, Iowa Network Services, Mid-Century Communications, Moultrie Telecommunications, Muscatine Power & Water, Oneida Cablevision, Spencer Municipal Utilities, The Community Agency and USA Communications. In addition, Big Ten Network has national distribution agreements with DirectTV and the new AT&T U-verseSM service, as well as a major regional agreement with Buckeye Cable.

This was dated 07/02/07. Do you see any of the big carriers listed, the cable companies that odds are 95% of us use? (Not as if most of us have much choice as to our cable) Where's Comcast? Charter? (Note: I'm stuck with Charter) WOW? Bright House? Looks as if Dish Network satellite subscribers are shut out as well. I see only 1 decent sized cable system, Buckeye Cable. Other than that, nothing but tiny carriers, that when combined, wouldn't add up to 1 of the big boys in cable.

So who in the Midwest is going to actually see the B10N? You're in luck if your cable TV is supplied by a small municipality, or you have DirecTv. Other than that, it's looking more and more like you're shit out of luck.

Personally, I don't care if the B10N is in the basic package, or as the B10N so cryptically puts it, "Expanded basic." I just want the damn thing to be available to me. I already pay for a Charter sports tier, lame ass as it may be. How lame ass? ESPN News, the Outdoor Channel, something called Fuel, and 3 FOX college sports regionals, Atlantic, Central, and Pacific. (I got it strictly for ESPN News. I rarely, if ever, watch the rest)

But add the B10N to that tier, and it immediately becomes much less lame.

I'm willing to pay for the B10N. I think most fans of the Big 10 would be willing to pay for a sports tier to get it. So why is Jim Delaney and the Big 10 playing hardball? Why get into a pissing match they can't possibly win?

Obviously Delaney likes throwing his weight around. Such as his demanding that Comcast apologize for calling some B10N events, "Second tier."

"Comcast recently has characterized events that will be on the Big Ten Network as 'second and third tier.' I believe Comcast owes every Big Ten university an apology. The comments are an insult to Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin: To the universities, their students, their fans and alumni and their communities. There are no second-rate contests in the Big Ten."

Please, get off your high horse. Christ almighty, a football game between Indiana and Northwestern could rightfully be called "Second tier."

From what little I've watched of the Fox regionals on my Charter sports tier, it's chock full of those "Second tier" events. The majority of the FOX sports college schedule, which I'm sure is very similar to the B10N offerings, is mostly comprised of non-revenue sports that, to be honest, I'm not going to watch. I'm not going to watch Big 10 sports like volleyball, soccer, wrestling and swimming.

The Big 10: "We're better than the SEC, because Jim Delaney says so."

As for myself, and I'd venture to say 99% of all Big 10 fans, we're going to watch football and basketball, and maybe a little hockey and baseball thrown in. Other than the 2 revenue producing sports, football and basketball, the rest can be truthfully considered, "Second tier."

No offense to those who participate in those non-revenue sports, but it's true. They are carried on the backs of the cash cows that are football and basketball, and it's those 2 sports that will get fans to pay for the B10N.

All I ask is that Delaney, and the Big 10, give up their high and mighty posturing. You aren't the Ivy League west. You aren't nearly as academically driven. You are what you are, a big time sports powerhouse, driven by football and basketball, lucky enough to haver some of the biggest TV markets that care about college sports within your boundaries. The Big 10 just like the SEC, ACC, Pac 10, Big East, and Big 12, but with a bigger TV presence. You are deluding yourselves otherwise.

So get your heads out of the clouds, come back down to earth, and get deals done with the cable companies that most Big 10 fans have no choice but to use.

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