June 22, 2006
The Big Ten Conference on Wednesday announced new partnerships to broadcast its college sports programming on ABC and ESPN, as well as on a new cable channel it plans to launch next year with Fox.
“This is the first effort to launch a national collegiate sports network,” Big Ten Commissioner James Delany said, adding the agreements were aimed at giving the conference schools more control over their “brand.”
The Big Ten’s cable channel to be based in Chicago will launch in August 2007 with partner Fox Cable Networks, which is owned by News Corporation Inc..
DirecTV Group Inc. has signed on as the 24-hour cable channel’s first affiliate, and negotiations will get under way with cable distributors in markets across the United States with the aim of reaching subscribers to the lowest-cost cable packages, organizers said in a conference call with reporters.
This could be a very good thing for me, or a very bad thing. Obviously, being down here in SEC/ACC country tends to limit my watching of the Big Ten. So anything that helps me to watch more of my favorite teams is a good thing. Especially since Purdue is a mid-level Big Ten team, they’re not televised nationally quite as much as Michigan or Ohio State.
But there’s a big problem. I can’t have DirecTV. I’d love to have it, as I used to back in California. It is cheaper than digital cable (although more expensive than expanded basic analog). And their TiVo is perfect quality, because it’s recording DirecTV’s pre-compressed stream. But I have trees. Big trees. Trees up the slope behind my house, that will impede any sort of line-of-sight to the satellite.
If this network takes off, and Comcast picks it up as an affiliate, all will be well. I’ll get great Big Ten content that I don’t get now. If it stays with only DirecTV, though, I’m going to be spending a lot of fall Saturdays sitting in sports bars watching Purdue. Again, being down here in SEC country, that will entail trying to convince some bartender to devote at least one little TV, maybe in the corner, to a little ol’ school like Purdue.
For everyone else, this will be an interesting experiment. Much like the Big Ten was the first conference to implement instant replay in the NCAA, other major conferences will be looking at their example to determine if a conference network is viable. The Big Ten is probably the largest conference when it comes to national support, so it will make for a very good test subject.
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