Sunday, March 2, 2008

Big Ten Network Off to Rough Start

It's a great concept, it really is. One network devoted to one conference and the eleven schools that represent it. Not only does this mean that every football and basketball game is televised, it means exposure for some of the lesser covered sports as well. In addition to that, programming developed by students and staff of the universities is shown as well. Great national exposure for a midwestern conferene is an excellent idea if it's executed correctly.

Only thing is it hasn't been.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the networks owned by the Big Ten and the NFL this year. The channels are only available to a select few, as cable companies and the networks can't agree how a deal of how to bring their programming to customers. Many cable companies want to add the channels as part of a special sports-tier package, while the networks want to be included in the expanded cable package, alongside other specialty channels such as HGTV and Bravo. A few cable companies have added the channels, but in most cases if you want to watch the Big Ten Network you have to resort to buying a dish or going to a bar.

The reason the NFL Network has worked better than the Big Ten Network is because of it's accessibility. Sure, the league is sticking to it's guns, but it has made it's games available in home markets. It also had great success with a brilliant PR move of putting the Giants/Patriots regular season finale on CBS and NBC. The other games they broadcast are available in a preview format on the internet.

The Big Ten Network isn't really in a position to do that, because they are more regionalized and local than the NFL Network. But still, I'm still fascinated that there are Saturdays in the fall where Badger fans have to actually go to Camp Randall in order to see some Badger football.

Another thing the NFL Network has going for it is how committed they are too it. Yeah, there have been kinks, but you'll never see a coach, owner, or player slam the league for having it's own network. The Big Ten Network had some backlash against it from one of it's own coaches, when Tom Izzo critized the network because of the amount of phone calls he's been getting from people wanting to complain.

The other side to this story is I have DISH Network, so I get The Big Ten Network. I've been able to watch every Badger game, and the other programming they have to offer. I've spent nights with Dave Revinse, and evenings with Mike Hall. It's a great network, an awesome idea, and I love that I can watch it from the comfort of my home.

But until more people can enjoy that same comfort, the Big Ten Network will continue to face the criticism it has been receiving.


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