Big Ten Network Continues To Annoy Consumers

So, apparently there is this sport where people try to throw a ball through a hoop that’s suspended above a “court.” It’s quite popular, says the Chicago Tribune. Colleges have teams and there is even a brand new cable station that shows games from just one conference:

Stop us if you have heard this one before: Comcast and the BTN still don’t have a deal. Nothing has changed since the football season, when many fans were upset at not being able to see the Wisconsin-Ohio State game, which aired on the BTN.

In early January, BTN President Mark Silverman said he was “optimistic” an agreement would be reached with Comcast. Now another month has passed, and nary a grand signing ceremony has been seen.

Silverman acknowledged Thursday that talks continue, but he didn’t want to add anything more. That’s probably a smart decision because it probably isn’t a good idea to get everyone’s hopes up again.

The BTN also doesn’t have an agreement with Charter Communications, the main cable carrier in Madison. In an effort to accommodate Badgers fans, it appears Wisconsin will open the Kohl Center free of charge and air the game on the big scoreboard TV screens.

What an excellent idea. This is turning out so well.

Big Ten Network, Comcast continue battle [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Yankees368 says:

    Well if you really, REALLY want to watch Big Ten Network, book a flight on Jetblue because the last time i flew I noticed they get the channel.

  2. Its The Beer Talking says:

    I have a vested interest in this (as a Wisconsin fan living in Chicago) and I have to say that I’m on the BTN’s side of the argument. From what I’ve read online, BTN has dropped its asking price considerably from when negotiations began last fall (I believe they started asking $1.10/customer and now its about 2/3 of that). Meanwhile, Comcast hasn’t budged at all, even as they lose subscribers to dish.

    From what I can gather, the cable companies’ gripe with adding BTN on the basic tier is that its ratings wouldn’t justify the price. How is this different from any other regional sports network? Take FSN Wisconsin for example. They most likely have a huge spike in ratings for 3 hours a night (Brewers/Bucks games) and then crap for the rest of the time. Do you seriously know anyone that watches “Best Damn Sports Show”? I didn’t think so. The same thing would happen with BTN. You would have high ratings during the weeknight basketball and Saturday football doubleheaders, and then sucky ratings the rest of the time. Yet one gets to be on basic and the other they want on the sports tier.

    Note: I am not a shill (although as a marketing grad student, this could very well be my line of work a year from now). Just frustrated that I will yet again be forced to watch Saturday’s game at a bar. OK, maybe that isn’t all bad, considering the copious amounts of beer, but still….I’d rather watch at home.

  3. pine22 says:

    the problem is the asking price in big ten states vs. everyone else. in ohio, they wanted time warner to pay 1.10 per customer per month, outside the 8 state region they only ask for 0.10 per customer. they would also allow non-big ten states to carry BTN on the digital cable tier, but they want big ten states to carry it on the basic cable tier.

  4. unoriginal says:

    As a Directv customer Im irritated that BTN is only my list of channels in the basic tier that I subscribe to. This is definitely one channel that should be treated as a regional sports channel instead of basic carriage. I know that Directv offers a setup where you can buy of out market regional sports networks and I think that this is where BTN would have fit in best.

  5. humphrmi says:

    @Its The Beer Talking: Don’t take this wrong, but I can see a marketing grad student taking this position.

    On the other hand, this and the NFL network are about professional (and now collegiate) sports trying to become “networks” in order to get more revenue. In the old days, it was simple – broadcasters affiliated with three or four networks paid the colleges and professional sports leagues to run their games on their channels. The broadcasters were professionals at broadcasting sports shows, and the colleges and leagues jobs were to play sports.

    But that’s not good enough for leagues and colleges any more. They want more of the pie, and they know they can’t get it if the old-school networks and broadcasters (who are often the same entity anyway) control the airwaves (or cable-waves, whatever). So to get more revenue, they are starting their own networks, and refusing (except in a few instances) to show their games on traditional networks, and then using their leveraget to get more money from the cable companies.

    Which, by the way, is something I can appreciate. But it’s not what they’re supposed to be in business to do. The Big Ten is a college league that is, ostensibly, in business to educate people. The NFL is in business to play football. Running networks isn’t their business.

    And in the long run, we – the consumers – lose while these groups (the leagues, the networks, and the cable companies) fight it out.

  6. Its The Beer Talking says:

    @unoriginal: Just to shed some light – News Corp. (DirecTV) has a large equity stake in the Big Ten Network, so it benefits them to have the channel as part of your basic package.

    Just out of curiosity – why do you find this so irritating? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t think that DirecTV increased fees when it added BTN. So you’re basically getting an extra channel, which you can either watch or not watch as you so desire. Was there a corresponding channel that was dropped from basic? Considering that satellite doesn’t have the bandwidth constraints of cable, this would surprise me.

  7. IndyJaws says:

    I am 100% against BTN on this one (the one and only time I”ve ever supported Comcrap). Their hubris is remarkable – from the outrageous price per subscriber to their insistence that they’re carried on the Basic tier. What really makes me mad is that they’re punishing the taxpayers who fund their institutions in the first place (except for Northwestern, I believe)! Much like the NFL Network, they thought cable companies would fold when faced with the prospect of mass defections. Now they’re trying to figure out how to get out of this morass and still save face.

  8. savvy999 says:

    Comcast jointly owns the Mountain West Sports Network (“The mtn”)… and guess what… it’s on their basic tier!

    Anything Comcrap says about ‘fairness’, or ‘consumer choice’ is total BS. This is about $… they don’t want to pay it. Which is their right. They also have the right to make terrible business decisions which cause them to bleed subscribers. If Comcast or Charter truly had cable competition in their midwest markets (not just satellite which doesn’t work for all people), they would be even more screwed.

  9. Its The Beer Talking says:

    @savvy999: U-verse just arrived in some NE Illinois communities…once it hits Chicago, I’m done with Comcast. Can’t happen fast enough. Hopefully by next football season.

  10. stre says:

    @Its The Beer Talking: hooray for badger fans in chicago.

    @humphrmi: the big ten conference was originally founded to regulate collegiate athletics between 7 schools in the upper midwest (notice to ohio state: you were not an original member and i reserve the right to kick you out at any time. oddly enough the university of chicago was an original member; do they even have sports teams anymore?). all joking aside, while the big ten has regulations in place to ensure that athletes at least make a half assed attempt at an education, the conference itself is not in the business of educating student athletes. it is in the business or regulating the athletic competitions and bringing money to the schools in the conference (example: big10 schools share bowl revenue at the end of the football season, ensuring that all of the schools are making money)

    that being said, i can’t completely side with the BTN. i think both parties are making asses out of themselves and the fans are suffering because of it. i’m more than a tad upset by the fact that the city of chicago, which practically has entire neighborhoods (think lincoln park and wrigleyville) comprised of only big ten graduates, won’t be able to see games like wisconsin vs purdue and wisconsin vs indiana (the top three teams in the conference and all ranked in the top 25!) because these two groups can’t play nice. hell, even the major NFL broadcasters played nice for one night in order to simulcast an important game, and there is certainly more money at stake with the NFL than with the Big Ten.

    just let me watch my badgers!

  11. ganzhimself says:

    As a sports fan I feel shafted from both sides. Charter perpetually screws me with rate increases and shoddy service, and now BTN is shafting me, taking Badger football, basketball, and hockey games away from the “free” channels that used to play these games. I’m also VERY irritated at FSN Wisconsin for shifting their live winter sports programming from Wisconsin Badgers men’s ice hockey to the Milwaukee Bucks (semi)pro basketball. Way to go Fox, Charter, and Big Ten. At least I’m taking the opportunity to attend more Badgers hockey games live at the Kohl Center.

  12. evslin says:

    The BTN should have secured agreements with every cable provider, no matter what it took, in 100% of Big Ten territory before taking this live. College football is just not something you jack around with, because it gets a lot of people pissed off.

  13. ToddGR says:

    I’m against the BTN on this, they’re the ones that took the games off of free TV in the first place. Now we have to listen as they complain about not getting a fair shake and how putting their network on a basic tier is in the best interest of fans. I’m not buying it. What’s in the best interest of fans is to let those that want it, pay for it and not force those that don’t care to foot the bill for it. The BTN needs to back down from their outrageous demands, compromise and put the games they stole back on TV.

  14. eeebee says:

    Big Ten Network is definitely the problem here. Why should it be on basic cable? I live in a Big Ten town and am willing to pay for the network, but we can’t get it. I already pay extra for packages including HD, NFL, Golf Channel, and I don’t know what else, so if you throw an extra charge for BTN, I won’t even notice. Lots of friends of ours have switched to Dish but I don’t want to. We have season tickets so we go to the games that are here and listen to the away games on the radio.

  15. Its The Beer Talking says:

    @ToddGR: I’m OK with the “let those that want it pay for it” mantra if I’m allowed to buy BTN by itself as a stand-alone option instead of having to shell out $10/month and getting 9 other shitty sports networks on their “tier” that I’m never going to watch. Frankly, I have no interest in South African rugby or the World Series of Horseshoes.

  16. humphrmi says:

    @stre: I completely agree. Fine, whatever the Big Ten is in the business of, it’s not running a broadcast network. They should go back to their basics of running sports for the colleges, and let the cable companies and networks run the business of delivering that to the customer. It’s not like the Big Ten didn’t get money from them, they just don’t like the fact that they don’t control the revenue stream. Boo friggin’ Hoo.

  17. bnb614 says:

    @Its The Beer Talking:
    The cable companies don’t want to do it because it takes revenue from them #1, and #2 if the BTN is successful, you’ll have the Big 12 Network, the NBA Network, the SEC Network, the Pac 10 Network, etc.

    Remember the good old days when companies/organizations stuck to what they are good at and didn’t diversify into shit they have no idea how to run?

    In Ohio, the NFL Network runs ads slamming the cable companies because they want them and the BTN to get on basic cable.

    I have the BTN and it is nothing to write home about. The graphics suck and most the analysts do as well (JJ and Gene Keady are pretty good).

    THe Cable companies have the upper hand. In 6 weeks basketball will be over. Then no one will care that they don’t have the BTN on their cable until September.
    That’s a long non-revenue dry spell for the BTN to make it through.

  18. clyde55 says:

    I quit watching and listening to baseball and football for the most part when they began to make you pay just to listen to the crummy games over the internet. I could see where that was going and I was right.

  19. karmaghost says:

    I’m no fan of the BTN, but Comcast is impossible to work with as well. Here in State College (near the home of a Big Ten school, no less), Comcast refuses to carry our local CBS station, WTAJ, in HD. I’m guessing they can’t come to an agreement with the company that owns the station as to how much money should change hands. A much smaller carrier in our area, Atlantic Broadband, carries the same CBS channel in HD as well as other popular stations that Comcast doesn’t carry. I’m getting a little sick of Comcast’s arrogance.

  20. BTNFan says:

    I am perplexed at the comemnts against the BTN. The BTN is widely available to almost anyone who wants to get it (according to testimony before Congress last year only 5% of households are unable to get a dish). The BTN has tons of great content ais included as part of basic package (like ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, TNT, etc.) and my rates did not go up when the BTN was added. Moreover, virtually all of the BTN broadcasts are in HD.

    I am a Big Ten fan living out of market from my alma mater and last year I had to pay over $200 in extra subscriptions (ESPN Game Plan and Full Court) to watch 90% of my teams’ games, all with a horrible picture quality. This year with the BTN I save $200 and can watch 100% of my teams’ games in outstanding HD. Almost every consumer has the same option I do so I am very perplexed as to why people are upset at the BTN for adding for games in better qualty for lower cost, when they are the ones voluntarily making the choice to subscribe to a service that does not carry the BTN.

  21. dandd says:

    BTN broadcasts are pretty horrible. I watched the OSU games on DirecTV and I have to say the production quality of those games were laughable. It is honestly one step above being a high school TV Prod assignment.

    So BTN wants us to pay for games that were absolutely free before. The games certainly aren’t commercial free. The games aren’t in HD. The production value of the games doesn’t compare to the Networks or ESPN.

    Wow, with all those advantages, where do I sign up?

  22. BTNFan says:


    What you are talking about? Unlike ESPN, all of the BTN’s games are in HD. Other aspects of the production quality are generally good; the BTN is on par which FSN broadcasts (which makes sense because the BTN productions are done by Fox), which is not quite up to ESPN but far better than ESPNU, VS or CSTV.

  23. Bryan Price says:

    I have a friend in Columbus who is in the process of getting rid of Time Warner and going with Network and AT&T for broadband mainly to get BTN (He’s also getting it because he can expense the phone line and DSL directly to his company).

    I predict that he’ll got with the Dish, but grab the lowest level TW just to keep on cable. He says he’s getting 6M DSL, but the business that I’m currently training out is doing good to get 1.5M out of their 6M connection that they just upgraded (Wireless in the parking lot with nobody else there. Yes, I’m a geek, that’s why I was there to get my MCSE!)

  24. bnb614 says:

    @BTNFan: Their graphics, etc, is the production quality I believe he is talking about. The graphics look like they were made by high schoolers, and most of the analysts don’t know how to talk smoothly with flow during a broadcast.

  25. smokinfoo says:

    I say fuck anyone who wants this channel.

    I hate basketball and there is no reason in hell why my bill should go up just so other people can watch their precious games.

  26. Buran says:

    @pine22: “big ten” in what way? size? population? etc? I really don’t know.

  27. stre says:

    @BTNFan: wow, you sound suspiciously like a BTN employee as that comment sounds suspiciously like a BTN advertisement. and in my personal experience, the only two BTN games i’ve seen have been standard def, though it’s an admittedly small sample and as such doesn’t mean much, so i’ll assume you’re correct in your assertion that most games are in high def. what i don’t agree with is your assertion that no one should be bitching because BTN is available on dish so everyone could switch. maybe you’re actually a dish employee? people choose television providers based on more than one channel, and while most of the country may be “able” to get dish, many people are locked in to providers based on their apartment building (gasp, not everyone lives in a free standing house and is afforded the choice).

    @smokinfoo: wow, someone needs their medication. while i think this situation and your underlying point of view is an excellent argument for ‘a la carte’ cable, grow up a bit. i pay for plenty of channels that i don’t have an interest in watching. so instead of coming online and spewing bullshit why don’t you sit back down in front of the television and watch your stargate or cspan or home shopping network that the rest of us are kindly helping to pay for so they can stay on expanded basic and your cheap ass doesn’t have to pay extra.

  28. stre says:

    @Buran: the big ten is a sports conference of 11 colleges in the NCAA (i know, it doesn’t make sense but if you look closely at the logo they squeeze an 11 into it, which is kinda cool). big ten states are those with big ten teams in them: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

    and if you’re just poking fun, well, then, uh, good one.