June 13, 2010

It's like Beaver Stadium, minus the entire student section

There's no doubt about the Big Ten Network. In just about three years on the air, the risky experiment by the nation's oldest college football conference has risen to become the shining success that's left others scrambling to find one of their own.

One could say the Big Ten Network is partly responsible for the seismic shift going on right now in college football. The Pac-10's recent addition of Colorado, and their stated intent to invite several more prominent college football programs, was justified by that conference's officials with their intent to create their own television network.

This is not going away, folks. It's high time the cable companies fell in line.

It took years of fighting for the Big Ten Network to land itself on even the special sports packages, never mind the basic lineup in the nine states which Big Ten schools reside. But oddly enough, even as more Big Ten conference sports (including quite a few key football matchups each season) migrate towards the BTN, only 83 percent of Pennsylvania cable customers have access to the Big Ten Network, the lowest percentage among the eight Big Ten states.

That's no small chunk, especially up there in northeast Pennsylvania. You probably know a few dozen of your own Penn State classmates who hailed from that part of the state. Some of our Linebacker-U.com staff have family up there, so it's extra frustrating when visiting during football season, only to realize their cable provider doesn't offer that weekend's Penn State and Big Ten games.

There are 300 cable and satellite providers that carry the Network to approximately 75 million homes in the U.S. and Canada, including 19 of the top 20 U.S. markets.

The Big Ten Network has televised more than 100 Penn State events and 24 teams in 2009-10, including four football, 16 men's basketball, nine women's basketball and seven women's volleyball contests, as well as coverage of 14 Big Ten Championships.

BTN has been available during the past year to Cox Cable customers living in the Omaha-Bellevue-Council Bluffs area. Cox is the primary cable provider in the Omaha market. So, Penn State, Nebraska and Iowa fans in Omaha area are all set, while 17 percent of cable customers in Pennsylvania are not.

So let's take, for example, those four football games. Eighty-three percent of Pennsylvania gets to see those games.

You know what else looks like 83 percent? Beaver Stadium with a completely empty student section...

Crude rendition? Yes. Gets the point across? We think so.

Imagine if Penn State announced next week that Beaver Stadium's capacity would be reduced to 88,000. The fan base would explode with rage, even from those who weren't going to attend the games anyway. Well, that's what's happening with the Big Ten Network in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Seventeen percent of the state doesn't even have the option to watch games on their TV sets. They can't even buy a premium sports package to get the BTN.


One of the founding principles of the network was that within the states that are home to a Big Ten institution, the network could not be launched above the expanded basic tier, so it doesn't, and won't, air on a premium sports package within the current eight states, nor in Nebraska as of Sept. 2011. So, among the 17 percent that don't have cable access to the network, their only option is to switch to DirecTV, Dish, Verizon FiOS or AT&T U-Verse, if available in their area.

There really is no excuse. In every other Big Ten state the Big Ten Network is covering more than 90 percent of its homes. That's not a mere percentage point or two. Pennsylvania leaves nearly twice as many homes without the BTN as those other states.

And what will happen if and when the Big Ten expands beyond the 12 teams currently on the roster? You can bet that ESPN won't be picking up more games than it already is for the Big Ten conference schedule. With the conference growing to 14 or 16 teams, that's about 30-40 more conference games per season. Most of them will end up on the BTN.

It's time to get with the program. Penn State fans, even those who currently get the Big Ten Network in their basic cable lineup, need to speak up. Cable providers will only change their service if the customers tell them they want it. So get on the horn, or fire off a message today, to the three cable companies still keeping Penn Staters in the dark:

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  1. Just wanted to let you know that there still is students in that picture, their section goes over another row to the right. That's where they stick all the Newbies.

  2. Chris Wright6/15/2010 2:24 PM

    Comcast just made it harder to watch the BTN again...BTN is one of the many channels that are no longer included in the basic package that most apt carry. You will now need to get a digital box to watch it. And for other broke college students like me that is another 80 bucks or so that I don't really have. This is really BS.