The creation of Big Ten Channel will give the conference the opportunity to broadcast more of its sports while incorporating additional programming such as coaches' shows and historic game footage. DirecTV has agreed to include the Big Ten Channel on its Total Choice Package at launch. The league also hopes to negotiate the channel's inclusion in extended basic cable packages throughout the country, preferring to avoid specialty or premium sports packages that digital cable and satellite distributors offer their subscribers for an additional fee.
The league's new 10-year television pact with ABC/ESPN will vary little from the one that will expire with the 2006-07 athletic/academic year. As in years past, ABC will have the first choice of Big Ten football games for a Saturday afternoon timeslot and ESPN and ESPN2 will typically have the next selections (three weeks of the year the Big Ten Channel will supersede ESPN/ESPN2 for Saturday football selections). Currently, games that are not picked up by ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 are distributed to local television networks (such as WISC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Madison, Wis.) via ESPN Plus or ESPN Local. With the new agreement, games not selected by ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 will be broadcast nationally on the Big Ten Channel, eliminating broadcasts that were regional in nature, but were accessible to a general audience via "over-the-air" broadcasting. The new television deal also ensures that the prime 2:30 p.m. Central time slot on Saturday afternoons will be a truly national broadcast. Currently, ABC runs several games of the week simultaneously, with various regional coverage areas. The new deal mandates that the Big Ten's 2:30 ABC games will be shown on ESPN or ESPN2 in regions where ABC is not showing the Big Ten game.
For men's basketball, CBS will continue to have the first choice of weekend games, while ESPN will have first crack at weekday games. Like football, men's basketball games will then be directed to the Big Ten Channel, instead of ESPN Plus syndication. Additionally, ESPN U or ESPN 360 could broadcast up to 13 games a season.
All told the Big Ten Channel is expected to broadcast at least 105 regular-season men's basketball games, 55 regular-season women's basketball games, 35 football games, Big Ten championships and tournament events not televised on another network (including three men's basketball Big Ten Tournament games and nine women's basketball Big Ten Tournament games), and 170 events, including championships, from "non-revenue" or "Olympic" sports, such as softball, baseball, tennis, golf, swimming, track and wrestling. The network will also includes coaches' shows and re-broadcasts of historic games, including bowl games. Additionally, each member institution will receive 60 hours of air time per year for original programming.
"How schools utilize this exciting new opportunity is limited only by their own creativity," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in a press release.
The Big Ten Channel will not accept alcohol- or gambling-related advertising.
In addition to its coverage of Big Ten men's basketball and football, ABC/ESPN will also continue to cover some women's basketball and volleyball games, including the women's basketball Big Ten Tournament.
The Big Ten Conference will be the majority owner of the Big Ten Channel and has entered into a 20-year agreement with Fox Cable Network, which will be the minority owner.
Fox Cable Network is a subsidiary of News Corp., which also owns a majority stake in DirecTV. News Corp., through Fox Interactive Media, is the owner of Badger Nation and its parent network, Scout.com.