By all accounts, the Big Ten Network has been a smashing success. It has provided piles of cash for the Big Ten member schools that has become the envy of all the other BCS conferences. The BTN put the Big Ten in the driver's seat during the summer of conference expansion.
Now that the PAC-10 has picked up two members, they too are starting to talk about launching their own television network. But if you ask me, PAC-10 commissioner Larry Scott has a fatal flaw in his plan. (emphasis added)
That is no surprise. With two major universities in each of five Western states, and the addition of Colorado and Utah in 2011 or 2012, the conference can better brand itself (Pac-12) and create a profitable asset. But Scott wants to diverge somewhat from the strategy that the Big Ten followed when it carved out a schedule of football and basketball games for its network from the rights it sold to ESPN in a long-term extension.
"We’re not that far along in our planning," Scott said.
But his goal is to have "more premier programming" than the "third-tier" games he said were on the Big Ten Network. The selection process for Big Ten football games greatly favors putting better games with greater ratings potential on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.
There was once a time when boxing was a premier sport in America. I can remember watching guys like Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Tommy "Hitman" Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Marvin Haglar routinely boxing on ABC and ESPN. These were the premier boxers of their generation. But then in the late '80s boxing made a fundamental mistake. They started putting all of ther championship fights on pay-per-view, and now 20 years later nobody watches boxing anymore.Larry Scott's plan will hurt the PAC-10. He fails to realize the appeal of the Big Ten Network. The BTN allows fans to see games that have no chance of being televised on ESPN or ABC. Before the BTN came along, if Penn State was playing Coastal Carolina there was probably a 50/50 chance that ESPN2 might put it on regional coverage. If you lived in Texas, there was no chance you were going to see that game on television in your area. But the BTN has opened up that opportunity. For schools like Indiana and Minnesota the BTN has been tremendous in opening up access for their fans to see the games because before the BTN the only time they saw their team on television was when they were being blown out by Michigan or Ohio State.
If Scott pushes to put premier games on his network, the PAC-10 (or PAC-12) Channel will fail. The only people who will see the premier conference games will be people who order the channel. The PAC-10 brand will be weakened nationwide because they will not be getting national exposure on ABC and ESPN. This will hurt their recruiting. Fans of schools like Washington State and Oregon State will not see as much benefit from the channel because their games will not get precedence over USC, UCLA, and Oregon.
The Big Ten Network has a model that has proven to work beyond anyone's expectations. Larry Scott and the PAC-10 choose to deviate from it at their own peril.