UI football featured on BTN

July 25, 2008

 Big Ten Network talent and camera crews will descend upon all 11 schools beginning Aug. 5. The network will broadcast 90-minute football specials nightly over a two-week period.

The network is slated to televise Iowa either Aug. 6 or Aug. 7. The show will provide in-depth coverage of practice, an early-season preview and touch on other relevant topics. The specials end Aug. 19 with Penn State.

“Football is the biggest sport, we all know that,” Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman said. “We need to get fans even more excited about football season.”



BTN’s next stop Mediacom?

June 23, 2008

The Big Ten Network’s deal with Comcast last week could set the dominoes in motion for other cable companies this summer, including Mediacom, to pick up the fledgling sports network.

Comcast will pay the Big Ten Network reportedly between 60 and 70 cents per customer in Big Ten states and place the network on its expanded basic tier through spring 2009. Comcast then can shift the BTN to a widely distributed digital tier (which will happen anyway with the death of analog next year). This is good news for Mediacom subscribers.

Fans understandably were upset last year when they couldn’t watch football or basketball games. Many fans called school administrators or sports reporters, including myself, to vent because they couldn’t get through to Mediacom or Big Ten Network reps. The whole point of starting the Big Ten Network was to provide exposure to the league’s schools. Instead, the distribution issue set the league back 20 years in television time for big cable customers.

With its recent deal, the Big Ten Network recognized it needed the cable companies a little more than big cable needed the BTN. The network was flexible in its deal with Comcast. If the Big Ten Network provides similar flexibility to Mediacom, this saga could come to a close by late August.

24 hours of Iowa on BTN

May 23, 2008

With tons of live games and highlights from late August through late May, the Big Ten Network had few problems filling its daily programming schedule … until now.

The BTN hopes to avoid a June ratings swoon by giving Big Ten viewers a full day to bask in highlights, old games, recaps and campus programming of their favorite school. For Iowa, that begins at 5 a.m. June 4 and lasts until 5 a.m. June 5.

The schedule features two of Iowa’s “Greatest Games” — the 1995 men’s basketball win against No. 6 UConn at the Great Alaska Shootout; and the 1990 football upset at Michigan that propelled the Hawkeyes to the 1991 Rose Bowl. The network twice will replay the 2008 Big Ten Wrestling Championships as well as games featuring women’s basketball, field hockey and softball.

There’s also the debut of Iowa: Year In Review, a 30-minute show that will be replayed five more times during the time block.

For non-sporting types, three hours of campus programming also is in the mix. There’s a one-hour feature on James Van Allen (makes sense) and hour-long episodes on Lasansky (I assume the gallery) and Project 3000 (an effort to find all people afflicted with Leber congenital amaurosis LCA).

If you remember, the BTN offered the 11 Big Ten schools 60 hours annually for university (see non-athletic) programming. Iowa’s faculty was so excited it made more suggestions for programming than it usually does for new government programs. I’d be interested in knowing how the ratings for these programs compare with an Iowa field hockey match. Of course, if Mediacom doesn’t pick up the Big Ten Network, the ratings aren’t going to matter too much.

BTN talks heat up?

May 19, 2008

After a few months of inactivity on Midwest sports pages, stories and conversations about the Big Ten Network have resurfaced by land (newspaper), air (television) and sea (Internet message boards). Multiple stories have the fledgling network close to deals with Comcast and Time Warner, the nation’s two largest cable companies. That likely would double their fan base and undoubtedly force smaller cable companies, like Mediacom, to follow suit.

But haven’t we seen this before? Negotiations seemed to ramp up before the 2007 football season, then before basketball season, before turning into a mirage. Nothing happened, and fans suffered through several blistering cold nights without watching their favorite basketball teams. Of course, watching Big Ten basketball this year would have given anyone a cold anyway.

I’m sure the rhetoric will heat up by mid-July. The Big Ten’s football media days are way early this year, July 24-25. That gives the BTN ample time to craft immense preseason football coverage during its dead period. It also provides the network a platform for whetting the public appetite for its Big Ten football coverage.

If cable companies don’t add the network by August, look for an all-out assault by the BTN. The network, the league and Fox (which owns 49 percent of the BTN) could justify one year of squabbling, but there’s too much money and prestige at stake to squander another year to bickering. The whole reason to start the network was to provide more coverage to student-athletes and their non-profit institutions. If the BTN can’t fulfill its mission and give as many people the ability to watch its programming, then what good is it? In the same breath, ask the cable companies if they are serving the public good by denying programming to the general public that would generate Super Bowl viewing numbers here in Iowa during a three-hour time block. I think we’ve been on this rodeo before.