Aug. 11, 2007
Editor’s Note: The following editorial appeared in the Aug. 7, 2007 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
EDITORIAL: Basically, satisfy fans
Since the Big Ten has long been a big hit in the Midwest, the new Big Ten Network deserves a spot on basic cable, where it can reach a wider audience
No one who knows anything about collegiate athletics would ever consider the Big Ten a niche conference. But in a way, that’s the argument being used by major cable providers to keep a new network devoted to Big Ten sporting events from being able to reach more viewers when it goes on the air later this month.
Officials of the Big Ten and their new network, which will be known as BTN, want to be part of basic cable. That makes sense because the Big Ten, which is one of the premier conferences in the nation, has a very strong and loyal fan base. Bowl-game organizers always have their eye on the University of Wisconsin Badgers because their fans turn up in droves for post-season play.
But major cable operators, including Time Warner, the big player in the Milwaukee market, think BTN belongs in a premium sports tier, which means cable subscribers and UW fans will have to pay extra to get access to the network. Cable officials concede that while certain Big Ten games have a large following, they don’t think there is enough interest in Big Ten sports, men’s and women’s, in general to warrant putting the network in the less-expensive, more widely viewed basic cable mix.
“It’s a free country. Cable operators cannot be compelled to run BTN on basic cable. But it would be a nice gesture to Badgers fans if they did.”
Editorial, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
BTN officials disagree and correctly point out that not only are Big Ten athletics a big deal in the eight states that make up the conference but the schools themselves have long been an important part of the Midwest’s cultural fabric. By having their own network, Big Ten officials also will be able to cover their schools’ academic, artistic and other achievements.
They also note that while commercial networks will continue to carry some Big Ten games, BTN will provide far more – including 60 to 70 Badgers football, basketball and other games – that otherwise would not be aired.
Yes, Big Ten officials obviously are counting on the network, 49% of which will be owned by Fox Sports, to generate a lot of additional revenue for Big Ten athletics. But to their credit, they’ve laid down some admirable rules and policies. They will not accept any alcohol advertising and, within three years, will air as much women’s athletics programming as men’s.
It’s a free country. Cable operators cannot be compelled to run BTN on basic cable. But it would be a nice gesture to Badgers fans if they did.
Talks are continuing. While that’s encouraging, it’s like a tie game. For Big Ten and UW fans, the only victory will be having BTN on basic cable, where it belongs.
Click HERE for more information about the Big Ten Network.