Friday, May 7, 2010

Big East Network?

So I saw this nugget out there today:
Those involved in the possible Big Ten expansion and those potentially affected by it understand what's driving the study. It also has them thinking.

"Why couldn't we do more with television, and have a Big East television network?'' Big East commissioner John Marinatto has asked.

Good question. And it's a question those in the Big East office on Thursday said probably would be studied.

"John Marinatto and Paul Tagliabue have both said it's something they are starting to explore to see what's involved,'' Mike Parsons, WVU's deputy director of athletics, said. Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner, has been hired by the Big East as a special adviser for strategic planning.
Personally, I never got the whole reason why other conferences hadn't been trying to do this. Sure the Big Ten beat everybody to it, but if they can pull it off, what about the football-hungry SEC? Or, yes, the basketball-hungry Big East?

I don't know. I'm sure some TV exec in the loop could spend an hour giving me reason after reason why it couldn't work. But one argument I've heard against it that doesn't hold water with me is that there has to be a demand for it. As a Comcast subscriber, I believe my rate went up, albeit slightly, when the Big Ten Network came out. Comcast passed that fee, or part of that fee, onto subscribers. I didn't have a say in it and I certainly don't care if I get it or not. So while there may be the customary outrage by some who wouldn't want the package, you can't tell me that it's impossible to get done if the cable networks want to genuinely do it.

Yes there was significant opposition by Comcast and others who didn't want to pay for the channel, but that passed. And now that it's been done for one, the floodgates are open. I have a hard time believing the Big Ten is more appealing to cable subscribers than SEC football.

The Big Ten covers many geographic areas across the country and obviously isn't strictly in the markets where its schools are. So the argument that the Big East has more teams, and thus more reach, doesn't necessarily hold water. But having more teams in its league can't be a bad thing.

And assuming a Big East Network could gain support in at least its own member school territories, they've got a pretty good basis to get started:

- Philadelphia
- New York
- New Jersey
- Chicago
- Washington, D.C.
- Tampa
- Pittsburgh
- Cincinnati
- Louisville

Definitely a reasonable start there as far as getting into some nice sized markets. The real question would be if the Big East can get enough interest by the cable companies out in the western part of the U.S., or even the midwest.

I'm not sure the Big East will pull this off or even attempt to pull it off. But with the type of money out there (approx. $22 million per Big Ten school with the Big Ten Network), I think we'll be seeing other major conferences doing this fairly soon.


  1. There actually is an SEC Network already:

    I wish there was a Big East Network. Although we have huge markets to tap into, sadly those markets are far more into professional sports than college sports. Plus, the three biggest markets that we cover don't even have football teams. :(

    I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see New York, Chicago & DC being interested in watching The Backyard Brawl.

    I desperately want to be wrong!

  2. Well, I should have clarified. There is technically and SEC network, much like there is a Big East network. But, to my knowledge, it's not a 24/7 channel like the Big Ten Network is. Rather, both appear on ESPN regional channels periodically through the basketball and football seasons.

    You have a great point about many of the networks being more geared towards pro sports, but I think they're big enough that college sports could do okay there. I base that on the fact that there is interest in the college teams in many of those markets. Maybe not as much as the pro teams, but Pitt is a big deal in Pittsburgh, Villanova is a big deal in Philly, etc. And while the geographic interest for certain games, like the Backyard Brawl, may not be everywhere, I don't know how much that matters. I get the Big Ten Network here in Pittsburgh and those Minnesota/Indiana games don't do anything for me. But they still have the network.

    I also agree with your point about the three largest markets not having Big East football. That would definitely be a reason why cable subscribers might be hesitant to pick it up.

    I don't know. I'm kind of torn on it right now as far as if it will happen. But I'd be surprised if the majority of BCS conferences don't have networks at some point in the next five years or so. It just makes too much sense and would bring in too much revenue.

  3. Lee - unfortunately, PITT is not a big deal in PGH. Unless one is an alumni most people in the Tri-State area don't care much for the Panthers at all.