The Big Ten Network is set to kick-off soon, but few fans will be able to receive it. Why? Because no major cable company wants to carry the freshman network, at least not as part of its basic package.
“The cable companies are playing their favorites, and abusing their power,” scream conference officials.
“We are underwhelmed by the prospect of carrying an overpriced niche channel,” a clever cable industry spokesman would say if such a person existed.
As legendary announcer Keith Jackson often exclaimed, “Fum…ble! Whoa Boy!”
My response to all this, is why waste your time with cable, Big Ten Network? Leave cable on the sidelines.
The Big Ten Network coulda been something, Charley. They coulda been a contenda.
The game plan all along should have been to launch as the first major online sports network. All the necessary pieces are in place. The Big Ten Network’s partner is Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also happens to own a minor online player called MySpace. DirecTV, also owned by Murdoch, will carry the network. AT&T’s U-Verse, the internet video provider, is on board as well. Oh, and AT&T just happens to have a little partnership going with Apple and its iPhone.
Satellite, internet, mobile… hmmm.
It’s not too late (okay, maybe it is) to make halftime adjustments. Here then, are my Big 10 (+ Penn State) Reasons the Network should be online:
Number 10 Cable limits exposure to parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. Yawn. Online provides easy access to millions more Big Ten alumni who now live and work all over the world.
Number 09 Most people won’t want to see an increase in their cable bills just to have access to this network, but many fans would probably drop a buck or two a month for an online subscription.
Number 08 An online network creates a dual revenue stream for its partners (Subscriber-based and ad-driven) just as cable would.
Number 07 CBS proved the viability of such a model with its delivery of NCAA March Madness broadcasts via streaming video. Only insufficient server capacity kept this initiative from becoming a true blockbuster.
Number 06 More Bucky Badger and less Brent Musburger!
Number 05 This “niche” network provides advertisers and marketers with an unsurpassed, rich media-powered playground for true interactivity.
Number 04 Online merchandising @ virtual versions of the conference’s campus bookstores, Booster Clubs, Fan Forums, online video games featuring Big 10 sports and teams (Hey, Michigan doesn’t have to lose to Ohio State in football every year anymore if you’re handling the joystick), and other possibilities too numerous to name here.
Number 03 Ability to track viewer behavior gives new meaning to “time out for a measurement,” and accountability means something to more than just coaches with losing records.
Number 02 Every geek can now claim that he had a cheerleader in his room – On Demand!
And the Number One, Big 10 (+ Penn State) Reason that the Network should be online… Imagine the Social Media possibilities. They could launch as InYourFaceBook.com!