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The Big Ten Network is ripping us off

Despite being just seven days old, the Big Ten Network has managed to irritate college football fans across the Midwest. Many were forced to get their Big Ten football fix via radio waves due to the cat fight between cable television providers and the Big Ten Network.

The Big Ten schools seem to be too busy fishing for money to realize they are neglecting their fans, tax payers and even their own students.

Why is there a Big Ten Network in the first place?

The Big Ten Network addresses this question on their Web site. Within the grammatical nightmare that is their FAQ page, the question arises, “Why was the Big Ten Network created when we used to be used to watch the games for free?”

With the same grammatical grace, their answer reads, “the Big Ten Network will ensure that every home Big Ten football and men’s basketball will be televised to national audience.”

Smooth.

So far it doesn’t seem like they are doing very well at reaching their “national audience” if their only major carrier is DirecTV. Other cable companies, namely Comcast and Time Warner, seem willing to pay to carry the Big Ten Network. Why not take their money too?

The hang-up is that the Big Ten Network’s Web site calls itself a joint venture between the Big Ten and Fox Cable Networks. Fox is owned by News Corporation. News Corporation owns DirecTV. It is in their interest to not let anyone else carry the Big Ten Network so that more people will switch to DirecTV. Sneaky.

Thus, in Bowling Green, DirecTV is the only carrier of the Big Ten Network. Those without it are stuck listening to the radio.

Students at the University of Minnesota are affected by this as well. The University of Minnesota’s Web page tells students to contact a local cable provider in order to get cable service in their dorms. The problem is that the only cable provider they list is Comcast, one of the cable providers without the Big Ten Network. Students paying tuition to fund the university’s sports teams can’t even watch their school’s games in their dorms.

This brings me to another example of this organization’s lack of common sense. The Big Ten Network’s president, Mark Silverman, is surprised that their widespread unavailability is an issue to the public. An AP article in the BG News last week quotes Silverman in response to the Big Ten Network hold-out.

“What I did not foresee was how public this would become. In my experience, cable companies negotiate very tough. I did not expect this to be any different. But it is the public face of it that is a surprise. It’s been particularly contentious.”

Why would this be a public issue?

Ohio State University’s financial statements from 2006 mention that they received 11% of their funding, or $44.8 million, from the state of Ohio. Perhaps part of the controversy is that Ohio tax payers are helping fund the Ohio State University but many are now unable to watch their games on TV.

Leaving fans, tax payers, and students in the dark proves that the Big Ten Network is not in place to do anyone a favor like they claim on their Web site.

A clue to the real reason for the Big Ten Network can be found in a USAToday.com article from July, 2007. In response to the possibility of adding a team and introducing a post season playoff to the Big Ten, our buddy Mark Silverman revealed the real reason behind the Big Ten Network.

Silverman says, “Any television executive would do whatever they could to be able to air a game like the Big Ten championship. It would be worth a considerable amount of value.”

Apparently it’s all about the Benjamins.

Another article from USAToday.com reported in January, 2007 that last year Michigan received $85.5 million in revenue from their sports programs. Ohio State received $104.7 million. That is from sports alone.

According to Ohio State University’s financial statements from 2006, the school brought in $408 million in total revenue.

According to the CIA World Factbook, that is more money than the whole country of Greenland gets for their yearly exports.

Time for another sample of middle school grammar mistakes from the Big Ten Network’s Web site.

In response to the question of whether the Big Ten Network is being greedy, the Web page reads,”All fees and any other revenues from this venture will be shared equally among all 11 Big Ten institutions and the conference office… For example, some schools using the money to finance more scholarships, while others are building much-needed new facilities.”

Are they being greedy? In a word, yes.

Send comments about this column to [email protected].

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