Big 10 Conference and Cable Companies Game of Chicken Goes Down to the Wire
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.