Penn State fans who can’t make it to Beaver Stadium this fall may have a hard time seeing the blue-and-white in action. The university and other members of the Big Ten athletic conference are launching their own TV network at a premium price.
The right to carry the new “Big Ten Network,” jointly owned by the conference and Fox, would cost Comcast $1.10 per household in Harrisburg, for instance. That’s more than almost any other basic cable network charges for subscribers, according to David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
What’s more, as the Centre Daily Times notes, the Big Ten wants its network to be carried as part of basic cable, not as an optional premium channel.
The biggest football games wouldn’t be seen on the Big Ten Network — ABC, ESPN and CBS have their choice of the best matchups each week — and when football and basketball seasons are over, the channel’s programming schedule would be filled with “non-revenue” collegiate sports, like swimming and volleyball.
The cable companies are balking. Comcast called the Big Ten Network a “niche sports channel” full of “second- and third-tier sporting events.”
Penn State President Graham Spanier and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany went to Harrisburg last week to make their case to Pennsylvania news media, but it may be a hard sell. Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp says it’s like “the last day of a big clothing sale. You’re excited at the prospect of getting a deal, but you soon realize that your choices are leftovers.”
And cable operators like Atlantic Broadband, which serves Altoona, say they’ve heard little demand for the Big Ten Network from customers. “We’re not talking Steelers football here,” David Dane, vice president of operations for Atlantic Broadband, told the Altoona Mirror.