From The Desk of Ron Mason: Big Ten Network Update
Nov. 13, 2007
Dear Spartan Fan:
Information about the Big Ten Network and its availability has recently been appearing in a number of different outlets. With the basketball regular-season rapidly approaching, I want to provide some comments to clarify the university's position.
This network was discussed as early as three years ago and much planning took place in order for it to become a reality this fall. The Big Ten Network (BTN) has offered the programming to each and every cable system in the country and currently has more than 150 companies participating and airing the programming on basic cable. In addition, DIRECTV and DISH Network offer the BTN on their basic satellite packages at no additional cost to the consumer.
The BTN is now reaching more than 30 million homes nationally, and it ranks as the fastest-growing new network in history. With high-definition programming, the television ratings in the Big Ten Conference footprint have been very high, supporting the idea that this network is of great interest to viewers. The BTN has broad appeal because it covers not only great football and basketball games, but also provides coverage of numerous Olympic sports and replays many of the Big Ten's Classic Games from the past. In addition, it provides programming that highlights the academic and research prowess of these fine institutions.
It is very unfortunate for our followers in areas where Comcast controls most of the cable operations that the BTN has been unable to reach an agreement with the company. The same is true for the Time Warner, Charter and Mediacom cable systems. It appears to us that those cable systems wish to create a sports tier and require customers to pay additional fees for the programming.
As the Big Ten Conference has stated all along, this programming should be available on basic or extended-basic cable, so all subscribers can watch with no additional cost incurred. As you may have heard, there is no deadline for negotiations with Comcast and other cable systems, so the BTN will continue to seek coverage as the 2007-08 academic year moves forward. I also think you may be interested in a release from the BTN that provides a summary of myths and facts regarding programming in the Big Ten footprint. You can find it by clicking on this link: http://www.bigtennetwork.com/corporate/Myth-vs-Fact.asp.
The Big Ten Conference has renewed its agreements with ABC and ESPN, and those networks are broadcasting about the same number of games as last season. The BTN has replaced the ESPN Plus telecasts that were regional in nature and available nationally only on a pay-per-view basis via ESPN GamePlan, and it has expanded coverage by offering even more live games.
As both a conference and as an institution, we anticipated some challenges in starting such an ambitious project. We ask for your continued patience and support as we do our best to advocate for delivery of the programming you deserve on basic cable.