Finer Points of the New Big Ten Network

Mark Silverman, President of the newly formed Big Ten Network, recently met with the Iowa media in Iowa City. There were still several questions that Iowa fans had about the new network after that press conference, and we hope to have a few more answers for you... Publisher Jon Miller recently had a one on one interview with Mark Silverman, the President of the newly formed Big Ten Network (BTN). The interview aired on May 3rd on The Jon Miller Show on Des Moines Sports Station, 1460 KXNO.

Below are some of the highlights of that interview that we feel might be of greatest interest to Iowa fans around the nation, plus a synopsis that may be useful. Q: Explain the ‘Big Ten Classic' programming a little bit if you don't mind.

Mark Silverman: So much of the Big Ten is about tradition and it's been around longer than the NFL or NBA. What we are looking at doing is creating a regular night of the week where we will have a classic game featured. During football, it will be football, etc. During the summer, we will delve deeper and offer a complete view of the history of the league and original programs. We are kicking around ideas like Top 100 athletes in Big Ten history, counting them down each day in the summer, something like that. There is a rich tradition and amount of content, in addition to the live events. We want to get the classic things out there, but we want to have a game a week or so as we get through the live event season which is primarily September through April. Then really go into the library to a greater degree May through August.

Q: As far as Olympic sports, you talked briefly in Iowa City about that topic a few weeks back. What about wrestling? Will that be a part of the programming on the BTN?

Silverman: Iowa wrestling, yes. As we look at for the Olympic sports, we are guaranteed a minimum of 10 wrestling events on the network. What we will do on those Olympic sports where we have numbers like that, we can televise more if we would like to and if it generates interest. We anticipate several Iowa wrestling matches. We are not sure of the exact number as we are laying out our program schedule, but wrestling is a key winter Olympic sport on the network.

Q: Iowa fans around the nation have been able to watch every Iowa game since the Minnesota game in 2000. That was the last Iowa football game that was not televised. How does an Iowa fan in KC or California get these games if their local cable provider doesn't have the BTN? Will they still be available on ESPN's Gameplan package as they have in the past?

Silverman: The Gameplan package as you mentioned will no longer have the Iowa games. The important thing to understand is that every Iowa home game, and we have no control over away games, the deal the Big Ten Network has incorporates only home games. The second key piece is that games will either be part of the ESPN/ABC family of networks or the BTN. The first three weeks are selected during the summer, then they are done in a six to twelve day advance window. As we go forward, every game played in Iowa City will be owned if you will by ESPN/ABC or the BTN. If that game is aired as a part of the BTN, what I am pledging we will do, is that we will have one BTN game of the week. In addition to those games, we will have a regionalization. Where we can put the Iowa game on in Iowa. If you are not in Iowa, and the game of the week is say, Ohio State-Northwestern, and that is on the BTN, what we are offering to Direct TV, Comcast, Time Warner, Mediacom and everyone, are all of these games. So the BTN primary feed will be the game of the week, but in addition to that, we are making these games available as a part of carrying the network. So the cable provider or satellite operator will have the chance to air all of the games. So there will be a crawl on the main game, saying if you want to view another game, go to this channel.

Q: Will your live programming be in High Definition (HD)?

Silverman: Yeah, we are going to have over 1000 hours of original programming a year in HD. Our live events, our nightly studio shows will all be in HD. I feel very strongly about this. If you are launching a new network and it's the best conference and the best schools, you have to deliver it in the best way you can. We quickly decided that everything had to be in HD.

Q: The fans seem to be in favor of keeping all of the Big Ten games on Saturday. Is that the plan?

Silverman: As far as I know, that is. The schedule that just came out, all the home games are on Saturdays. I don't think anyone is looking to move football off of that day.

Q: Will there be staggered kickoff times?

Silverman: I think most of the games on our network will be the 11am games. The three primary windows for football games are 11, 2:30 and 7pm. Our windows are typically the early window. ABC more often than not will have that 2:30 window, exclusive to them. Then the prime time games, those will be on mostly every week on either ABC/ESPN or BTN. All three could have games going on the same time in that first window.

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Mediacom, the largest cable provider in the state of Iowa, has not yet reached a carriage agreement with the BTN. It's my opinion that this is a foregone conclusion and will be a matter of time before Mediacom, Comcast and Time Warner will announce an agreement with the BTN. It may not happen for a month or more, but it's going to happen.

DirectTV has reached an agreement with the BTN, and it will be a part of their Total Choice package. Dish Network does not yet have an agreement with the BTN.

If you live in the state of Iowa, you are going to be able to watch the Iowa fans either on DirectTV, or when Mediacom picks up the BTN. I do not have any concerns, as an Iowa resident that subscribes to Mediacom, that we will not get those games come fall.

If you live out of the state of Iowa, and perhaps outside of Big Ten country, your local cable provider may not choose to carry the network. And if it does, it still might not also pick up all of the games that the BTN will offer, applying the Ohio State-Northwestern example from above. You will need to contact your local cable provider and tell them of your wishes. If you live out of state and have DirectTV, it's my guess that they will make all of those games available.

All live events will be in HD.

For more information on the Big Ten Network, visit

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