In news that isn’t exactly surprising, the Big Ten has announced it will reduce the number of hours dedicated to academic programming on the Big Ten Network. Apparently ratings were low for the shows focused on academics televised on a network branded for sports. Imagine that.
The conference had initially expected to show approximately 60 hours of academic programming for each school in the league when the network was launched.
“Most of them didn’t have the resources to produce the shows. It was always set up to be at their cost, not the network’s,” Delany said. “We were willing to give the time, but the universities had to create the shows. When we came up with the number of hours, we didn’t know what the schools were capable of producing.”
The problem isn’t necessarily the shows themselves (one which you can see below), but rather expecting sports fans tuning into watch their favorite Big Ten team would also be interested in programming that doesn’t involved sports.
Likewise, people who might have an interest in such programming don’t think of BTN because they expect sports to be on the network. People who enjoy cooking don’t tune into ESPN to find out how to bake a cake, they turn on the Food Network. Why would people without a sports interest tune into the Big Ten Network? As the Big Ten Network found out, they don’t.
That doesn’t mean BTN is going completely away from academics programming, there’s just going to be far less of it.
And just because there’s going to be less campus wide programming on the network, BTN still remains a great thing for the academic sides of the conference’s universities. As Scott Ketelsen, director of Iowa’s marketing and media production said, “In this day of tight budgets and purse strings being pulled tight, something like BTN being successful and infusing money back into the universities is huge.”
Here’s one example of a the programming you’ll be seeing less of on BTN. It was produced by Illinois and actually very well done (in my non-expert opinion). That said, more people would still rather watch Illinois play hoops. I’m guessing Illinois public television would eat this stuff up, however.