Big Ten Conference to launch channel; inks rights deal with ABC/ESPN

The Big Ten Conference announced two significant media plays: a joint venture with Fox Cable Networks to launch the Big Ten Channel, a conference-specific channel devoted to national distribution of conference athletic and academic content, and a separate, new 10-year deal with ABC Sports/ESPN to cover 1100 football, basketball and volleyball games.

Speaking with reporters during a teleconference June 21, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said the conference would retain majority ownership of the Big Ten Channel under the terms of an agreement with Fox that spans 20 years.

The Big Ten Channel will carry many of the games and events previously available only through syndication. The sports programming on the Big Ten Channel and possible other Big Ten Channel platforms will include:

· more than 35 football games, with each school having at least two games aired (at least one of which will be a conference game);

· at least 105 regular-season men’s basketball games;

· at least 55 regular-season women’s basketball games;

· Big Ten championships and tournaments;

· 170 Olympic sporting events; and

· coverage from the conference’s library of historic sporting events, including bowl games.

In addition, each school will have the right to provide 60 hours of its own content annually. Initially, the Big Ten Channel will be distributed on DIRECTV’s Total Choice Package beginning in August. The channel also will feature 660 hours of non-athletic conference-related programming spread over its 365-day 24/7 telecast schedule. Some events will be produced and made available in high definition. Fox Cable Networks will seek nationwide cable distribution of the new channel as an expanded basic cable tier offering.

The conference’s new 10-year rights contract with ABC/ESPN will increase national exposure of Big Ten athletics from current levels. The deal calls for:

· up to 41 Big Ten football games to be televised — up to 17 on ABC and up to 25 on ESPN or ESPN2;

· all regional afternoon football games aired on ABC to be aired by ESPN/ESPN2 in outer-markets, making the games nationally available;

· about 60 men’s basketball games to be aired on an ESPN network (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360), including games on each Tuesday and Thursday of the nine-week conference season, and up to eight Saturday games during conference play;

· 100 women’s basketball and volleyball events to be televised on an ESPN network, including the championship games of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament; and

· through ESPN’s collection of new media outlets, such as, Mobile ESPN, ESPN360 and ESPN VOD, fan access to live events (including simulcasts), extended video highlights, in-progress games and features. In addition, Big Ten coverage will be available on ESPN Classic and throughout the world through ESPN International.