Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Big Ten Network Flailing?

I just did a quick bit of research on the Big Ten Network, set this fall to deprive me the chance (remote as it was) to watch my beloved Illini play football. Before I could sometimes catch the Illini on ESPN regional, or the deuce. I can pretty much kiss most of that goodbye, as the Illini will be a likely candidate for the BTN most weeks this year unless playing a big team. The game vs. Minnesota is already scheduled to be run on the BTN - at least I will be at that one in person.

The BTN still has not inked a deal with my local cable company, Charter. Charter says the price is waaay too much. I agree. They want to charge Charter more than any other network on cable except ESPN, and they want Charter to put it on their basic tier. Charter has said that they would be happy to put the BTN on a digital "a la carte" tier so those who would like it can pay for it themselves. The price the BTN wants is absolutely laughable, seeing the teeny tiny bit of content they will be providing Charter to sell ads with; a handful of football games and perhaps ten basketball games for each Big Ten team.

I would prefer ALL of cable to be "a la carte", but that is most certainly grist for another post.

Back to my research. I went to the Big Ten Network site (NO, I will not link them) and used their handy zip code finder to see how many of the home towns of Big Ten teams will be able to view their teams, if the game happens to be on the BTN. I was stunned - the answer was a big fat zero.

WTF? It is obvious that all of the cable companies are pretty much giving the BTN the collective finger at this point. Why doesn't the BTN lower the price, or agree to be placed on a pay per view or the "a la carte" tiers? They are going to lose their asses if they don't do something before the season starts. Aren't they? Don't you need proof that somebody is watching your TV shows before advertisers will pay for ad slots?

I am no cable company fan, but they are so right in this situation it is amazing. The NFL Network tried to bully cable companies last year and the cable companies did the same thing. The NFL Network was even more laughable because they had the Packers on only one time last year - so Charter and everybody else would have to shell out all the $ for one three hour program that people would watch PER YEAR? Does the BTN really think that anyone is going to watch those riveting women's soccer matches? Or the men's rowing? Puhleeze.

It comes down to basic economics, and the cable companies are right - there is limited advertising to be sold on a network that people are only going to watch their home team for. We will see how this plays out, but as the season rolls along, I bet we may get some developments, especially if they keep putting the more popular teams with more rabid fans football games on the BTN, such as Wisco, OSU and Michigan.

For now, I am resigned to catching the Illini four or five games on TV at best, and that will be even with a little luck.

Cross posted at Saturday Football Update.


Dan from Madison said...

I had another thought - if I got the Big Ten Network here in Madison, it would benefit me more than the Badger fans here as their team will be very good this year and more than likely featured on the main networks as the year goes on. Illinois will be mediocre (.500 at best) and will be more likely to be on the BTN. Strange.

gerry from valpo said...

Agreed, the Big Ten thinks they can muscle a big cable company. The BTN needs distribution on Comcast more than Comcast needs the BTN. BTN appears to be greedy

I, however, can watch all scheduled Notre Dame games, home and away. On free TV! =)

Dan from Madison said...

And you will be hating every minute of it this year...6-6 at best.