All Big Ten, All the Time

By Sam Ross, Jr. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 22, 2006 | Go to article overview
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All Big Ten, All the Time

Sam Ross, Jr., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

On Wednesday, the Big Ten Conference announced a combined reaffirmation of commitment to the traditional and an embrace of new media.

On the traditional side, the conference revealed it has a 10- year extension with ABC and ESPN that increases television exposure for football and men's basketball, as well as upping visibility for women's basketball and volleyball. The Big Ten's relationship with ABC dates to 1966 and with ESPN to 1979.

The ESPN side will look to exploit the Big Ten product both on cable television and on Internet and wireless platforms.

The departure from the traditional was the announcement that the Big Ten Channel will dawn in August 2007, a 24-hour cable offering in connection with Fox Cable Networks that will feature all Big Ten sports and a garnish of academic programming -- five hours a month for each of the 11 member schools. Select Big Ten Channel content will be available on the Internet, iPods, cell phones and any other pertinent technology that might develop. The agreement with Fox is for 20 years.

"This is such an incredible leap," Penn State president Graham Spanier said on a teleconference yesterday.

"The Big Ten has always been a leader in so many areas," he said, citing a diverse list ranging from instant replay for football to gender equity. "This will serve as a model that might also work for others."

Spanier, who was instrumental in the rights negotiations, said the Big Ten had considered going it alone with its cable channel. In the end, the decision was made to partner with Fox, based on its history of success with cable channel start-ups, but with the Big Ten retaining majority control of the board of directors for the channel.

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