I'm writing this fanpost to expand on some comments I've made about what to expect from television coverage of Maryland sports on the Big Ten.
First, I want to correct the misconception that joining the Big Ten means that every MBB game will be nationally televised, on the BTN at least if not on the ESPN TV family or network TV.
Second, I want to explore a new Sports Business Journal article that came out yesterday, suggesting that we may be in for a battle between the BTN and local cable operators about carriage fees and which tier of service the network appears on.
The Big Ten Network will be a huge boon generally to coverage of UMD athletics. Anyone who has suffered through decades of Raycom/ACC Network mediocrity can immediatly see the coverage benefits (any anyone who studies things like third-tier rights knows how much more $ is in it for the conference and school). Many more non-rev matches will get television opportunities. However, I think people are misunderstanding a bit what is offered by BTN and what realistically a television schedule will look like once UMD is part of the Big Ten. People seem to have this fantasy that the BTN means every basketball game is nationally televised. As far as I can tell, that doesn’t apply to any of the teams this year.
I reviewed all of the television schedules for Big Ten basketball this season. (Here are links to Northwestern's, Michigan's, and Wisconsin's) Indiana is the closest to full national broadcasts with only one game on “Big Ten Digital Network” online streaming service (which costs extra money*). Michigan had a regular season game that was not televised or streamed in any format! (Maryland doesn’t have that this year, with every game being on at least ESPN3.) Various games are also on RSNs (like Comcast SportsNet), which means by definition not a national broadcast. Most conference games are on BTN.
Schools like Illinois, Northwestern, and Wisconsin seem to have a comparable number of online-streaming cupcake games to UMD's current schedule, some of which are free on ESPN3, and others of which are on the subscription-only Big Ten Digital Network* (think TerpsTV). For what it's worth, ESPN3 is a better streaming experience in my opinion, because not only is it free, in addition to your computer you can get it on an Xbox 360 or on an HTPC using XMBC.
Another factor is the BTN2Go app, which allows streaming of BTN itself on mobile devices, but only if your cable/internet provider has an agreement (requires more than just having BTN as part of your bundle).
The good news is that all football games appear to be on one of BTN/ESPN TV family/network TV.
The bad news, as mentioned in this article from the Sports Business Journal, is that BTN is planning to increase the cost it charges to cable companies in the "new" Big Ten markets, DC/Baltimore/Philly/NYC. This is something they have done in the past with Nebraska. This could lead to a protracted battle, with higher costs eventually going to be passed along to cable subscribers in those areas, even if like me, you already have BTN. If you've been one of those lucky people who haven't been able to to watch NFL network since it debuted you understand how nasty these disputes can become. Hopefully we get lucky and, like in Nebraska's case, it gets resolved before the first season of UMD in the Big Ten.
*Big Ten Digital Network Monthly - $14.95
Big Ten Digital Network Yearly - $119.95
School Monthly - $9.95 (ex. just UMD)
School Yearly - $79.95
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