As season nears, Big Ten Network provides update on television endeavor

August 08, 2007

Penn State President Graham Spanier, Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany, and Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman talk about the exceptional benefits of the Big Ten Network in a letter to Pennsylvania's leaders.

Recently representatives from Penn State, the Big Ten Conference and the Big Ten Network came together at events around the state to talk about our new partnership. Launching on Aug. 30, the Big Ten Network is the nation's only major college sports network dedicated to showcasing athletics and academics. The Network represents a unique opportunity for these highly respected academic institutions to showcase our best to everyone throughout the state of Pennsylvania, the Midwest and the country.

The Big Ten Network will not only feature football and basketball games from universities with some of the nation's greatest sports traditions, but it also will air more women's sports than ever seen before. In addition, it will show 75 other Penn State-specific sporting events, a nightly studio show including segments from each campus, weekly coaches' shows, Big Ten championship events, classic games and behind-the-scenes profiles of athletes, faculty and alumni.

But the value of the Big Ten network resonates beyond the athletic fields.

The Big Ten Network will represent the values of Penn State and the other 10 universities which comprise the Big Ten. For example, the Network will not accept any alcohol or gambling advertising, will provide student internships at each school whereby students will earn school credit for working on Big Ten Network productions, and will serve as the only venue offering significant additional exposure for women's sports.

Furthermore, the Big Ten Network will air 60 hours of non-sports programming annually from each school. The Big Ten Network is going to feature shows produced by Penn State and other Big Ten Universities which will focus on academic breakthroughs, honored alumni and current students, renowned faculty, academic accomplishments and challenges.

The overwhelming integration of Big Ten universities, their teams and their communities into the fabric of their states warrants widespread distribution of the network. There are 4 million Big Ten alumni and additional millions of fans who passionately follow their sports teams and schools.

Consumers typically receive 60-70 channels in their expanded basic level of service that are not selected by them, but by their cable operator. If consumers could choose the networks they prefer, we believe many Pennsylvania viewers would select the Big Ten Network over a dozen or more other networks their cable operator has selected for them already. Since the cable industry insists on bundling a large number of channels together and charging one fee for them, networks with a heightened degree of local relevance such as the Big Ten Network rightfully should be included in that group.

Throughout Pennsylvania you can't get much more relevant than Penn State. Penn State has a campus or office in each of the state's 67 counties. Penn State enrolls more than 83,000 students at 24 campuses. Penn State, with almost 39,000 employees, is one of the largest employers in the state. And Penn State has more than a quarter of a million alums living in Pennsylvania, almost a half million across the United States, and hundreds of thousands of parents, other relatives and friends of students. The viewership numbers generated by some of the other narrow focus networks found on most expanded basic cable services pales in comparison to the potential of the Big Ten Network.

Additionally, let's be honest about the cost issue. The Big Ten Network rate in the Midwest is two-thirds less than what the market has determined is appropriate for cable operators to charge in their own regional sports networks. The cost to operators everywhere else is less than at least 65 other national networks. In addition, cable operators own many sports networks, all of which are carried on expanded basic on their own systems. And the cost to the cable company is not the cost to the viewer. The Big Ten Network is offering cable companies hundreds of 30-second commercial slots every week to sell on their own and then keep the income.

The Big Ten Network currently has national agreements with DirectTV and AT&T as well as regional agreements and commitments from more than 75 other cable operators. Unfortunately, the state's largest operator, Comcast, is not among them. They are insisting in public statements that the Big Ten Network be placed on an expensive sports tier. We find this position illogical, given the fact that Penn State sports carry some of the highest ratings in Pennsylvania.

We would also like you to know that the Big Ten Network offers important financial benefits and job opportunities for the eight states in which the Big Ten schools are located. The revenue that will flow to the Conference from the Network will be divided equally among all Big Ten member institutions. Penn State remains one of a handful of universities that operates its entire intercollegiate athletics program without using state funds or tuition. That is accomplished, in part, through unique endeavors such as the new Big Ten Network. The Network will also likely have an economic impact on the community, with television exposure creating increased attendance at sporting events and additional crew traveling to produce events.

The Big Ten Network is an exciting and worthy endeavor that will broadly benefit the state of Pennsylvania. It creates an opportunity to highlight for the entire country all that is special about our states: the best in competitive collegiate sports, renowned institutions of higher learning and the unparalleled passion and support of our universities' award-winning sports and academic programs. It is a network for everyone who cares about our state and takes pride in the academic institutions that contribute to our communities and the quality of our lives.

The Big Ten Network will remind the country what is great about Pennsylvania. The Big Ten Network is honored to partner with Penn State and we hope you will support us in this endeavor.


Graham Spanier, Jim Delany and Mark Silverman

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009