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Big 10 Conference and Cable Companies Game of Chicken Goes Down to the Wire
2007-08-14 14:04
by Scott Long

It was not that long ago that the MLB Extra Innings TV package almost became the exclusive property of Direct TV. At the last minute, MLB came to an agreement with the cable companies and Dish Network, thus a crisis was averted.

Currently, there is a major battle going on between cable companies and the Big 10 Network, as most of these companies want to place the new network on a second tier. The reason for this is that the Big 10 Network is asking for more money per subscriber than any other channel except for ESPN. Now, as much as this seems like extortion, think about how much a Michigan or Ohio State football game is worth to its fans? In a state like Iowa, where no professional sports team exists, paying a $1.10-1.20* per month would seem like a bargain for most in the state. *reports vary on the actual number

The only sports league that has its own network is the NFL. The NFL Network also had a tough fight with cable companies when they demanded to be put on their main tier. So far, Time Warner has refused and Comcast announced that they will be putting the Network on a higher priced sports tier this year. The NFL Network shows 8 regular season games per year. If you live in the metropolitan area of your favorite team, the game is shown on some platform, if you have the NFL Network or not. Where this becomes a problem is if you live in a place like Madison, Wisconsin or San Antonio, Texas and are cable subscriber not carrying the NFL Network. No Packer or Cowboys games for you! Your option is to get a satellite dish or go to a bar to see your team.

The Big 10 is not just offering 8 games on its new venture, as they will show the majority of their basketball games on the Big 10 Network. For fans like me, who live outside of my alma mater state, having a chance to see almost all the games as part of my basic package has pushed me back to Direct TV. I can see understand why the cable companies and Dish Network have not wanted to pay this much in order to put the Big 10 Network on its basic platform packages, but consdering the network might be the one I watch most during some months, I think it's a great value. Way more coverage of my teams, without dropping a couple hundred bucks to buy the NCAA football and basketball packages is a great selling point to someone like myself.

We will see how this thing sorts itself out, but my guess is that many of the cable companies will stand firm against the Big 10. All other major sports conferences will be watching to see if the Big 10 succeeds. Televised sports has never been worth more to advertisers, as it is the only programming that seems to be TIVO-proof, because watching live is vital to the experience. He may be the face of evil to some, but Rupert Murdoch has understood this fact about the power of sports television. It will be interesting to see how this stalemate between the Big 10 Network and the cable companies impacts each others bottom line and how much it adds to Direct TV. Don't think that MLB isn't paying attention, with its own network coming soon (hopefully) to a cable provider near you.


2007-08-14 15:56:39
1.   Eric Enders
All I can say is that at this moment, I am glad to not be a Big 10 fan. When the Big XII starts doing the same thing, I'll start to worry.
2007-08-14 17:24:10
2.   Another Tom
I once watched paint dry for about 45 minutes before I realized it was actually a Penn St/Wisconsin football game (rim shot, please).
2007-08-14 19:06:43
3.   Dangerous Bri
Murdoch sold Direct TV to Malone and Liberty Media in November 2006.
2007-08-14 19:09:07
4.   Johan
I hate to comment here simply to point out an inaccuracy, but I really have nothing else to add here.

The NBA also has its own network.

2007-08-14 21:27:12
5.   Scott Long
I know Murdoch sold directtv. I almost mentioned it, as I didn't want to come off like he was directly involved with the Big 10 Network. Fox sports is involved, though, with the development of the channel, from what I heard.

Interesting little note on the subject. When I called Dish network to cancel, the cancellation expert I was referred to had no idea about the big 10 network. I explained it to her and mentioned that I knew Dish network was suing the Big 10 over what they consider unfair practices between the big 10 and directtv. The "expert" than offered up that Rupert Murdoch throws money at certain products and then passes them on to the customer. I explained what dangerous bin mentioned. I also added that I can see Dish network's point, but I want the channel and the only place I can get it is Direct TV. She brought up other advantages of Dish, but I kept coming back to the point. She continued to push her spiel, until I explained it to her this way.

Let's say I'm seeing Dish network and direct tv at the same time. I tell both of them that oral sex is the most important thing to me. Dish responds by saying, I cook better, I'm a better conversationalist, but I can't offer oral. Direct tv says, I might cost you a little more, but you will get BJ's on a regular basis. Sorry, but I'm going to have to choose the one who offers me what I want most. NOTE: THis seems to get the trained specialist to finally leave you alone.

Yes, I know NBA TV exists, but from what I know it doesn't show any regular season games, is not on regular tier cable or satellite and no one watches it. This is why it didn't get mentioned.

2007-08-14 21:44:32
6.   Ali Nagib
5 - I don't have the info for the past years at hand, but here's the NBA TV schedule for the 07-08 season:

92 games, basically 3-4 a week over the course of the season. That's 74 more than ABC has slated and it's pretty close to what ESPN and TNT are showing. The problem is, no one cares about regular season basketball like they do the NFL.

2007-08-14 22:17:03
7.   joejoejoe
It's hardball tactics like this that make people question the tax exempt "educational" nature of the NCAA and conferences. Eleven schools, ten of them public universities (Northwestern is the exception), are holding up cable companies and ultimately their subscribers for more and more money. Exactly how does that square with their public education mission? I like college sports but it's increasingly hard to stomach the behavior of the people running the sport.

My buddy is from Iowa and I visited his great grandmother with him once and she had an Iowa Hawkeye toilet seat and Iowa merchandise all over her small home. She paid taxes to support the public university and was happy to catch the games on free TV. Now in the name of progress the same woman's support of her community is being leveraged to make a buck to pay Kirk Farentz $1.4 million per year while the Governor of Iowa $130,000 a year? It doesn't sound right to me.

I'm all for big time sports but these schools should stop lying about their educational mission and just come clean as businesses. I think the way the Green Bay packers are owned and operated could be a model for transforming big time college sports from a fake educational tax shelter to a real non-profit community business. At least then the shakedown would be approved by the people supporting the team to defer the costs of operating the team instead of selling increased prices and limited access as somehow consistent with public education.

And yes I know this a bit of an incoherent rant...I just think the status quo in college sports operations is a giant joke.

2007-08-15 08:59:01
8.   Kheldar
"At the last minute, MLB came to an agreement with the cable companies and Dish Network, thus a crisis was averted."

This statement, while not a part of your major point, is factually inaccurate. Dish Network never reached an agreement, and does not carry the MLB Extra Innings package this season.

Dish Network's website at:
"The prospect of DISH Network reaching an agreement with Major League Baseball regarding the Extra Innings package no longer exists. Unfortunately, DISH Network will not be carrying the Extra Innings package for the 2007 baseball season."

It goes on to examine the reasons.

Unfortunately, this glaring error in the first paragraph calls the rest of your research into question.

2007-08-15 11:46:51
9.   Scott Long
First let me put out there that I am off on a few accounts here. I try to be accurate on my blog, I really do, but my bigger issue here is developing dialogue on certain topics. The NBA comment was lazy on my part. Thanks for the correction.

I have had the dish for 2 years now. I get an AL and NL team as part of my basic sports package. (Reds, white sox) I went to the dish network website, saw the extra innings package emblem and just figured that meant it was on dish. I was off. Oops. Don't think it wrecks all the validity of the piece, but I can see the point.

I really like joe3 point on the subject. Can't say I have much to refute this. The grand statement in defense would be that the big 10 network income would help with paying for other sports and have to rely less on public funding. Don't know if this is the case, but my guess it will just wind up making the stadiums more luxirious and the coaches salaries to go up.

Here is the selfish part for me. I would like to watch every game of my alma mater. I would like to hear more info on the team. The big 10 network will provide this for around 13 bucks a year. Not for everyone, but a big bargain for me.

2007-08-16 07:12:25
10.   lbroer
The NCAA and Big Ten are the most hypocritical organizations in existence. They issue stiff penalties to coaches for giving a kid a ride or some minor infraction. They want you to believe they are a squeaky clean organization dedicated to education. In reality, they are a bunch of high paid bureaucrats whose only interest is lining their coffers with untaxed profits. As taxpayers we are paying for the colleges and we deserve to be able to watch the games of our favorite schools without paying additional money to the greedy NCAA and cable or satellite providers.

They bust a school for buying a kid a coke but when they travel it is first class flights and first class hotels and restaurants.

They are going the way of NASCAR and other professional sports by pricing themselves out of the market.

2007-08-17 10:15:22
11.   Scott Long
This juice blog generally falls on the side of being against big brother, but I suggest you read the story by Teddy Greenstein in the Chicago Trib, as it includes info for why I'm overall on the Big 10's side.

Below is one part of it.

Why did the Big Ten form its own network?

Three major reasons: 1. To make money for its universities and Fox, which owns 49 percent of the BTN; 2. Because 85 of its men's basketball games and eight of its football games last year were not televised—and more and more were being shuttled to less-distributed ESPNU and the broadband service ESPN360; 3. To boost national recruiting and provide a forum for schools' educational programming.

AND HERE ARE WHY I THINK IT's a bargain for Big 10 fans.

Besides the addition of being able to get so many more games (which are unavailable on many levels, especially at this price). Archives of Big Ten games, a Friday night "Tailgate" show, news-and-highlights shows, some original programming. The BTN, based in Chicago, is spending big bucks on its productions. More than 90 percent of football games will be shown in high definition.

I basically watch about 12 channels during each month of my cable. Considering this channel would be one of my top 2 or 3, I see why the Big 10 wants 1.10 per subscriber in the midwest.

The only thing that is keeping many Big 10 sports fan from jumping to Direct TV is the bundling of internet and phone that the cable companies are able to offer. I suspect this will be challenged when fans realize that games they could be seeing aren't on. (many of these games wouldn't have been shown, so it's hard to slam the big 10 for just being greedy.)

2007-08-17 23:30:06
12.   das411
So I guess there's no chance for a Please Explain: College Sports then, is there Scott?

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