“Our long national nightmare is over”

August 28, 2008

In Watergate’s wake, President Gerald Ford once said in the somber moments following former President Richard Nixon’s resignation: “Our long national nightmare is over.”

I echoed those same words moments after the official press release popped up in my inbox. After more than a year of asking Mediacom, BTN and Iowa officials (plus a few fans, bar owners and satellite operators) the same questions about their impasse, the companies reached an agreement. Iowa’s BTN games finally will appear on Mediacom. Fans will watch them. Move on, as the liberals say.

Whew! No more questions about negotiations. The aggravation and wrath (or joy and ecstasy) of Iowa fans now will be saved for televisions in family rooms, not e-mails directed at sports reporters. In a few days, when everybody knows to which channel the Big Ten Network will appear on their cable lineup, I won’t hear a peep. Like our federal government, I’m the wrong person to dispense advice on how to spend people’s money. When it comes to TV choices in print, I’d like to stick to that statement.

Predictably, Iowa officials are thrilled. They caught the most junk from fans last year. I’m convinced the impasse hurt Todd Lickliter’s first year as basketball coach. Most of the games started at 8 p.m., so out-of-Corridor families didn’t come. Fans couldn’t watch them on TV because they had Mediacom and not the Big Ten Network. Fans didn’t build any familiarity with Lickliter or the players. They struggled on the court so there was apathy. People quit caring. Not exactly the best combination for a first-year coach.

“The plan for the Big Ten Network from its inception was to offer more access to more fans,” Lickliter said in a statement. “The agreement with Mediacom helps that vision become a reality for Hawkeye fans.”

Athletics Director Gary Barta shared in joy, saying, “This is a great day for the Hawkeyes.”

Iowa will make more money from this deal and the others the network signed this week. But right now, it’s like a new lease on life.

For Iowa and, in some ways, for me.


BTN is still coming to your city

August 27, 2008

All right, I know Mediacom subscribers/Iowa fans have started freaking out that a deal is falling through between the Big Ten Network and Mediacom. The companies have two minor hang-ups they’re trying to resolve dealing with digital on-demand technology and location. All of Mediacom’s Iowa franchises will have the BTN on its family tier, while the companies are discussing Mediacom’s out-of-Iowa franchises.

Lawyers for both companies still are vetting the details. It could be Thursday when the deal gets finalized, and Mediacom will show Iowa’s game this Saturday against Maine. With the BTN finalizing deals with Time-Warner and Charter (plus rumors that Cox isn’t too far behind) already this week, this one won’t linger much longer.

Mediacom’s Iowa fans finally win

August 23, 2008

For those of you who held out hope that Mediacom would pick up the Big Ten Network, your faith has been rewarded. Mediacom will pick up the Big Ten Network next week just in time for Iowa’s opener against Maine. A specific date for implementation is not determined.

There was no way either business (yes, it’s a business transaction) was going to let another season of Iowa football go down without the majority of Hawkeye fans watching the games. Neither Mediacom nor the Big Ten Network liked angering fans in the Hawkeye state but both had to stand firm with their demands. I don’t think many Iowa fans were in the mood for another year of point-counterpoint after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse wreaked havoc on the state in May and June.

When Comcast agreed to terms with the BTN in June, the wheels were in motion for Mediacom to pick it up. There are still a few matters to be addressed, such as will Mediacom’s non-Iowa franchises carry the network, will Mediacom’s digital customers receive more than just one game, etc. But the deal means Mediacom’s 400,000 Iowa cable customers won’t miss Iowa football and basketball games this year. It also fulfills the Big Ten’s purpose for bringing the network on board.

Leading up to Iowa’s opener against Maine, the BTN will broadcast a few preseason football specials. At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the network will re-air a 90-minute practice. At 2:30 p.m. Wednesday it shows Iowa’s 30-minute season preview. At noon Friday (Aug. 29) it broadcasts the one-hour debut of “Iowa Football with Kirk Ferentz.” KCRG will re-air it at 9 p.m. Friday.

Let’s home for Mediacom subscribers the substance was worth the wait.

Ex-Hawk to serve as BTN analyst

August 21, 2008

Former Iowa player Anthony Herron will serve as a game analyst for the Big Ten Network starting this fall.

Herron played defensive end for Iowa under Coach Kirk Ferentz before leaving after the 2001 season. He then played for the Detroit Lions and in arena football before moving into broadcasting. Herron worked as a sideline analyst for the BTN during Iowa’s spring scrimmage, calling it a tryout.

The BTN’s lead TV crew is announcer Thom Brennaman and analyst Charles Davis, who also works for the NFL Network. Brennaman and Davis also call the BCS championship game for Fox. 

Other announcers include Wayne Larrivee, Mark Neely and Matt Devlin. Among the analysts include former Minnesota Coach Glen Mason, Chris Martin, Ian Allen, Tony McGee and Kenny Jackson.

Big Ten hoops to start earlier?

August 16, 2008

We should find out sometime next week about Iowa’s Big Ten basketball schedule. It was supposed to be released Aug. 10, but the networks and Big Ten schools are checking and re-checking it over and over.

A couple of “unofficial” items to note. Because of the massive complaints for Big Ten schools — including Iowa — over the 8 p.m. starts, it seems the BTN will start its late games at 7:30 p.m. Central. That also means there will be several early games beginning at 5:30 p.m. Central. That might be just as tough for out-of-Corridor Iowa fans as the late starts.

Also, it appears Iowa will open Big Ten play at Ohio State on New Year’s Eve sometime in the middle of the day. That way the time probably won’t interfere with the Insight Bowl, a Big Ten tier bowl starting at 6:30 p.m. Central.  Just a coincidence.

BTN to feature 4 UI great football games

August 7, 2008

The Big Ten Network’s second season of “Greatest Games” will feature four Iowa football games, including two wins.

On Sept. 16, the network will re-air Iowa’s 2005 Capital One Bowl victory over LSU. On Nov. 6, the network will show Iowa’s 2002 42-35 overtime victory at Penn State.

Slightly more forgettable for Iowa fans, the BTN will air the 2006 loss at Indiana on Oct. 9. The network will show the 1988 45-34 loss at Indiana on Sept. 30.

For a complete list of games, go to http://www.bigtennetwork.com/greatest/index.asp

BTN to air 90-minute special on Iowa football

August 5, 2008

The Big Ten Network will televise a 90-minute special Iowa’s football team Thursday night. The network will televise parts of practice with interviews and analysis. The Gazette’s Marc Morehouse is scheduled to appear as well.

Iowa’s season preview will air 5:30 p.m. Aug. 19.

The BTN begins its 11-school football tour tonight at Ohio State. After Iowa, specials will air on Wisconsin (Aug. 9), Minnesota (Aug. 11), Indiana (Aug. 12), Purdue (Aug. 13), Northwestern (Aug. 14), Illinois (Aug. 15), Michigan (Aug. 18), Michigan State (Aug. 19) and Penn State (Aug. 21).

More than 90 cable, satellite and cooperative outlets in Iowa carry the Big Ten Network. Mediacom, Iowa’s largest cable operator with 400,000 customers, does not carry the Big Ten Network. The BTN and Mediacom continue to negotiate but have not resolved an impasse.