The Big Ten cable network has been an unchallenged success promoting conference sports to a national audience and making money for its members. The academic programming its leaders had promised hasn't panned out.
When the Big Ten Network launched in 2007, officials said it would promote the scholarly work done at its 11 schools. The network, Commissioner Jim Delany said, would broadcast up to 60 hours of non-sports programming from each school every year, providing "the ability to highlight academic achievement throughout the universities."
Five years later, the network is running less academic coverage than ever as it generates tens of millions in revenue for the conference and boasts of 51 million subscribers. Citing low ratings and poor production quality, the network and university presidents agreed to slash academic programming and emphasize quality and ratings over quantity.
That means more time to air revenue-generating sports such as football, even in the offseason. Ratings are up. The network also said it has followed through on its promise of covering an equal amount of men's and women's live events, shows everything from lacrosse to softball, and has given nearly 300 students experience in sports television production.