Big Ten Football TV talks
The next few weeks could bring some significant changes to the way we watch Michigan Football (on TV, that is). Rumors have been circulating for the past few months, and have now found their way into the mainstream media. What rumors? Primarily that Big Ten Football could end up on Fox (and possibly their various sister stations) after years with ABC/ESPN [Rivals.com link (scroll towards bottom) ; Chicago Trib (reg. required)]. The Big Ten is allegedly very interested in some sort of “exclusivity,” whereby they would have a “whole station” to themselves, possibly with their own pre-game show and all the trimmings. Having to currently share ABC coverage with the Big 12, Pac-10, Big East, and the newly-expanded ACC, having its own network might appeal to the Big Ten powers that be.
So what could this mean to the average fan? First, remember that this is not a done deal. ABC/ESPN has the big bucks, and won’t go down without a fight. But, if this does go through, here are some potential ramifications (along with some wild guesses) as I see it:
1 – Out-of-area Big Ten fans could really get screwed, especially if Fox were to show one or two “big games” nationally, while putting the others on their regional Fox Sports Net stations. If this type of setup happened, DirecTV users would be fine (thanks to DirecTV’s Sports Pack, but cable subscribers likely would not. Most of us currently rely on ESPN Gameplan to watch at least half of Michigan’s games in any given season. ESPN Gameplan does not broadcast games shown on Fox Sports Net (currently Big 12 and Pac-10 games). That could change, but only if (1) Fox is willing to partner up with ABC/ESPN (its sworn enemy), and (2) ABC/ESPN is willing to fork over some major dough so it can say “we have a few Big Ten games on our PPV package each week.” Uhhh… I’m not so sure that would happen. A glimmer of hope for out-of-area cable subscribers might be the 3 Fox College Sports stations. If Fox used these 3 channels (along with its national Network TV station) for Big Ten games, then some of us would be OK. Unfortunately, many cable subscribers do not have access to the Fox College Sports stations, even in a Sports Tier or on Digital Cable.
2 – The BCS TV contracts will be shuffled around as soon as possible. Right now, ABC has the Rose Bowl, while Fox has all other BCS Bowls (including the National Championship game, played on January 8th). This arrangement starts this season, but could be changed if Fox gets exclusive rights to Big Ten games in the coming years.
3 – What will ESPN do if they have zero Big Ten games? Will they fill up their Noon time slot with more ACC and Big East games (likely)? Will there be an “anti-Big Ten bias” on ESPN channels? One will certainly be alleged. SEC fans claim ESPN bias all the time, and ESPN shows one or two SEC games each week (night games). What will the conspiracy theorists say if/when ESPN has no financial stake in Big Ten Football?
Again, this is all very speculative at this point, but it could be the beginning of something really bad (or good) for Big Ten Football. We will find out in the coming weeks…