Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Big Ten Notwork

No, that's not a typo. We meant to say "Notwork" in our title.

That's because unless you have a DirecTV satellite connection, the new Big Ten Network is not likely to be in your TV lineup card now that it has officially launched.

The All Big Ten, All The Time Network has been negotiating with major cable multi-system operators like Time Warner, which is by far the dominant cable provider in most of the OMW coverage area.

So far, nothing.

It would appear the placement of the channel is still the biggest sticking point.

Cable operators want to put it on a sports tier, or at very least on some digital cable tier. BTN is making its case to have the channel show up on a typical expanded basic lineup, a case they renew here.

On the cable side of things, Canton Repository sportswriter Todd Porter has a Q&A with Massillon Cable president Bob Gessner here. Gessner's system - co-owned with Wooster's Clear Picture - is not one of the smaller operators that have signed up.

Who has?

Toledo's Buckeye Cablesystem, which serves a chunk of Northwest and North Central Ohio (including Sandusky), was one of the few cable systems to agree to terms with the BTN folks early. The handful of people with AT&T's "U-verse" system in Northeast Ohio will also get the Big Ten Network.

And on launch day, the Big Ten Network announced a deal with Insight Communications, which not only serves the Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati, but also a small portion of Columbus.

So, cable subscribers SOMEWHERE in Columbus will be able to catch The Ohio State University Buckeyes battle head coach Jim Tressel's former team, the Youngstown State University Penguins, on Saturday.

But the vast majority of cable subscribers in the Columbus market are served by Time Warner's huge "Mid-Ohio" division. Again, no word on TWC and BTN at this point...they would appear to be still at square one.

So, why is SportsTime Ohio, a new network, in cable systems' analog tiers, and BTN is having problems with that?

Massillon Cable's Bob Gessner explains it rather well in the above linked Canton Repository story:

Cleveland Indians Baseball has been part of basic cable for many years. In the early years of Fox Sports Net Ohio (then called SportsChannel), the Indians’ away games were all available on WUAB as part of basic cable. Everyone received them.

Gradually, all the games moved to SportsChannel. The fact 100 percent of the games were only available on Fox Sports Net makes a far more compelling argument for basic cable carriage. When the Indians started their own network last year, they moved 100 percent of Indians baseball from Fox Sports Net Ohio to STO.

The same facts are not true for Big Ten Network. The Big Ten Network will have the third or fourth choice of Big Ten football games.
TV coverage of Big Ten games will not be diminished as a result of this new network. The few games that Big Ten Network will show are new, incremental games. That’s why I believe they should be available on an optional basis.

The view from here? Much like the NFL Network thinking actual game content would drive fans to inundate their cable company with calls, the Big Ten Network seems to be counting on missing Ohio State games to send Ohioans to the phones.

And it doesn't seem to be working.

Casual fans will likely not miss either the Buckeyes' contest Saturday with YSU, or for that matter, the tilt with the University of Akron Zips the following week.

Three alert OMW readers let us know that YSU's local TV coverage, seen on local FOX affiliate WYFX "FOX 17/62", only covers tape delayed home games, and the locals will only get a radio call via Clear Channel's WKBN/570. Since this isn't a home game, it won't be televised in the Mahoning Valley anywhere, unless the viewer has DirecTV to pick up the BTN feed.

Of course, all OSU games are on the Buckeyes' extensive radio network. If you just have to know immediately how badly Ohio State is swamping Youngstown State, all you need to do is flip on a radio, for free.

The "important" games that won't be lopsided Buckeye Blowouts? They'll be on either ABC or ESPN, guaranteed.

Now, if OSU-Michigan was only on the Big Ten Network, the fans would scream. But that's not likely to happen, at all...


Mike Banks said...

Wadsworth Cable also has the Big Ten Network in their lineup at position 79 I believe...

vanillacokehead said...

I'm not sweating that much over not having the Big Ten Network on my cable system (I have Time Warner in the Akron area). I think the folks behind both the Big Ten Network and the NFL Network need a "reality check" in terms of the perceived value of these two networks to cable customers.

I side with TWC on this one. I think given the per-sub costs both NFLN and B10N are demanding, I agree that these two networks are unreasonably asking for carriage on the "expanded basic" tier. I'd pay for these two networks on a "sports tier" but don't think it's fair to saddle everyone with their high per-sub costs.