|Broadcast area||United States|
|Picture format||720p (HDTV)|
Downconverted to letterboxed 480i for SDTV feed
|Owner||Fox Sports Media Group|
Big Ten Conference (39%)
|Sister channels||Fox Sports 1|
Fox Sports 2
Fox Soccer Plus
|Launched||August 30, 2007|
|Fox Sports app (requires login from eligible pay television provider to access content)||Watch live|
|B1G+ (requires login from eligible pay television provider to access content)||Watch live|
|Fox Now, fuboTV, DirecTV Stream, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV|
Big Ten Network (BTN) is an American sports network based in Chicago, Illinois. The channel is dedicated to coverage of collegiate sports sanctioned by the Big Ten Conference, including live and recorded event telecasts, news, analysis programs, and other content focusing on the conference's member schools. It is a joint venture between Fox Sports and the Big Ten, with Fox Corporation as 61% stakeholder and operating partner, and the Big Ten Conference owning a 39% stake. It is headquartered in the former Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog House building at 600 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago.
Big Ten Network is carried by most major television providers and as of 2014, had an estimated 60 million U.S. subscribers—the number had been boosted by the addition of Rutgers University and the University of Maryland to the conference.
Big Ten Network was the second U.S. sports network to be devoted to a single college sports conference, having been preceded by the MountainWest Sports Network one year prior to its launch. BTN was later followed by rival cable channels by the Pac-12, SEC and ACC with a similar array of programming.
The network's foundation traces back to 2004, following negotiations between the Big Ten and ESPN on an extension of the conference's broadcast contract with the network. With three years remaining in the existing deal, the conference sought a significant increase in rights fees. ESPN, however, balked, causing Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to begin exploring the creation of his own network.
The launch of the Big Ten Network was announced on June 21, 2006, as a 20-year joint project between the Big Ten Conference and Fox Entertainment Group. At launch, the conference owned 51% of the network, while Fox owned a minority interest and handled its operations. The network was positioned to be the first ever cable channel dedicated to a single collegiate conference. The network also has a commitment to "event equality", stating it would produce and distribute an equal number of men's and women's events across all platforms, within three years of its launch. The deal was meant to replace the Big Ten's television contract with ESPN's ESPN Plus regional television package. ESPN Plus games were typically only seen on one broadcast television station in a team's local market (for example, the Illinois Fighting Illini aired its games on Champaign, Illinois CBS affiliate WCIA (channel 3)).
Big Ten Network was launched at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on August 30, 2007, with Big Ten Tonight as its inaugural program. The network aired its first live telecasts two days later on September 1, which included a football game between Appalachian State and Michigan – the game gained national attention for its upset victory; being the first win by a Division I FCS team over a ranked Division I FBS team since Division I was split into two subdivisions by the NCAA in 1978. On September 2, the network aired its first women's sports event (a soccer match between Syracuse University and Michigan State) and its first men's non-revenue sports event (a soccer match between UCLA at Indiana).
The new network suffered from limited carriage on its launch, as it was only carried by two major television providers. By the following year, the network had reached its goal to attain carriage on the "extended basic" tiers of cable providers in all Big Ten markets. While no specifics were revealed, Fox increased its stake in the Big Ten Network to 51% in June 2010, acquiring majority control, using a provision in its contract with the conference. To coincide with the 2011 college football season, the network unveiled a new logo that made "BTN" the primary name of the channel, and introduced a new TV Everywhere service known as "BTN2Go," which offers live streaming of BTN telecasts and other programming through a web browser or mobile app. The service was initially available to subscribers of Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, DirecTV and Dish Network.
BTN and Dish Network were involved in a dispute leading up to the expiration of the satellite provider's contract with the network in August 2012, a day before that year's college football season began. The network was temporary blacked out for eight days beginning on September 14, giving way to a new agreement that restored BTN on Dish Network on September 22.
In July 2017, as part of a new six-year agreement that made Fox the primary television rightsholder of regular season Big Ten football games, Fox's contract to run BTN was extended through 2032.
On December 14, 2017, 21st Century Fox announced it would sell a majority of its assets to The Walt Disney Company, owners of ESPN, SEC Network and the then-upcoming ACC Network, in a transaction valued at over $52 billion. 21st Century Fox's stake in the Big Ten Network was not included in the deal and was spun off to the significantly downsized Fox Corporation, along with the Fox network, Fox News, Fox Business, FS1, and FS2. The deal was approved by Disney and Fox shareholders on July 27, 2018, and was completed on March 19, 2019.
The network introduced a new logo on October 23, 2020, coinciding with the start of the delayed 2020 football season. The new logo returns to using "Big Ten Network" as the primary name of the channel, and incorporates the conference's "B1G" wordmark.
Big Ten Network holds national broadcast rights to all of the conference's home football games and televises approximately 35-40 football games each season. Each team is guaranteed to appear a minimum of two times annually on the network, one of which must be a conference game.
The network holds national television rights to all men's basketball conference home games; all non-conference and exhibition games are either televised or streamed on bigtennetwork.com. Each of the conference's men's basketball teams appear on the network approximately 10-20 times a season; it carries approximately 60–65 in-conference match-ups, as well as select tournament contests.
Big Ten Network also televises approximately 50-60 regular season women's basketball games annually, along with approximately nine Big Ten Basketball Tournament games. Each Big Ten team appears on the network approximately 8 to 10 times during the season. The network streams dozens of games live on its website, giving Big Ten women's basketball the most exposure of any conference in the country. The network maintains a set on-site during the Big Ten men's and women's basketball tournaments in Indianapolis, Indiana with anchors providing coverage and analysis of each day's game action during the event.
Big Ten Network televises approximately 25 of the conference's baseball games each spring, with each team making approximately 5 to 8 appearances annually. In 2009, the network televised the entirety of the Big Ten baseball tournament.
In the 2013–14 season, Big Ten Network expanded its coverage of college ice hockey due to the Big Ten Conference beginning to officially sponsor the sport, broadcasting 27 games as well as the Big Ten tournament, and adding associated studio programs. The Big Ten Network televises more than 170 NCAA-sponsored Olympic events in both men's and women's sports such as hockey, soccer, volleyball, track and field, swimming and diving.
In April 2016, it was announced that BTN and Riot Games would organize a collegiate League of Legends event, the BTN Invitational, between teams representing Michigan State and Ohio State. The event was held at PAX East in Boston, alongside the semi-finals and finals of Riot's own college championship. Michael Sherman, head of Riot's collegiate competitions, stated that "there was actually a student group at Penn State that was looking to run a Big Ten tournament, and the Big Ten Network got word of it and through that we actually connected to each other and saw that we had a lot of interest in sort of building an event together."
In January 2017, BTN and Riot announced that it would hold a season of conference competition between teams representing 12 Big Ten schools, culminating with a championship whose winner would receive an invite to Riot's college championship. The competition was primarily be streamed online, but later rounds were televised on BTN. In January 2018, Riot and BTN announced an extension of the partnership through 2019, complete with scholarship funds for teams ($35,000/team yearly) and the addition of Penn State and Nebraska, bringing all full conference members to the partnership. ESL became a partner with BTN's competition for 2019.
The Big Ten Network televises 21 Big Ten Championships and Tournaments, including baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, men's and women's golf, men's and women's gymnastics, rowing, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, and wrestling.
In February 2017, the NCAA announced that Big Ten Network had acquired rights to the Women's Frozen Four—the NCAA national championship of Women's ice hockey, beginning in 2017 under a four-year deal. BTN broadcast the finals in 2017, and began airing the semi-finals beginning 2018.
Big Ten Network launched in both standard definition and a 720p high definition simulcast. All of its original programs and studio shows are broadcast in HD, as well as nearly all of its sports telecasts and some of its university-produced coaches and campus shows. The channel has produced all of its football games in HD since 2009.
In September 2017, BTN revealed plans to televise selected games from the 2018 Big Ten men's basketball tournament in 4K.
BTN2Go was Big Ten Network's TV Everywhere service, which offers online streaming of BTN programming to subscribers on qualifying television providers. Beginning in the 2017–18 season, BTN2Go content became available within Fox Sports' main TV Everywhere app Fox Sports Go.
In July 2019, due to the Fox Sports Go platform being divested with the Fox Sports Networks as part of the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney, BTN content moved from Fox Sports Go to the main Fox Sports website and apps. The BTN2Go app was transitioned to an app for BTN Plus—a subscription over-the-top streaming service for non-televised Big Ten events.
On many Saturdays during the football season, the Big Ten Network produces multiple games that air at the same time. The network designates one game as its national game, which is shown on the main channel on satellite providers. The remaining games air on the main channel in the local markets and on the extra overflow channels in the remaining markets. Most cable systems inside the Big Ten's eight states offer these Big Ten Network overflow or "out-of-market" feeds to provide additional football games. All of the additional overflow feeds for the network's various football telecasts are available nationally on DirecTV and Dish Network; and regionally on AT&T U-verse, many Comcast systems, and several other cable providers. Some providers only carry the overflow feeds in standard definition, and providers outside of the U.S. provide them in out-of-market subscription packages. Since 2019, all Big Ten Network football games are also available via the Fox Sports app, regardless of geography and wireline restrictions.
Carriage negotiations with several major cable providers were stalled for several months due to their interest in placing the channel on a sports tier, with the providers only wanting to charge customers who wanted to subscribe to it; Big Ten Network, however, wanted providers to carry it on their extended basic tiers so that subscribers would not have to pay an extra fee to receive the network. Comcast, the largest cable provider in the U.S., reached a deal to carry the network on June 19, 2008, and began adding the channel to its systems on August 15, 2008; other major providers in states with universities in the Big Ten Conference (including Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable) would soon follow suit. Additionally, the Big Ten Network is an associate member of the Caribbean Cable Cooperative.
DirecTV and AT&T U-verse were the only major television providers to carry the channel at launch; however, 250 smaller cable systems (including those that are members of the National Cable Television Cooperative) also carried BTN at launch. Dish Network added the channel one week later in early September 2007.
During the late summer and early fall of 2008, several larger cable companies within states where a Big Ten university was located reached agreements to carry Big Ten Network, expanding its carriage to every major cable provider in those areas. On August 23, 2008, Mediacom (which services most of Iowa, including Iowa City, where Big Ten member, the University of Iowa, is located) was reported by Cedar Rapids newspaper The Gazette to have reached an agreement in principle to carry the network according to sources close to negotiations; the deal was announced on August 28.
On August 25, Time Warner Cable and the Big Ten Network announced in a joint statement that the two parties had reached a carriage deal. Time Warner Cable carries the channel on its expanded basic service in the eight states where Big Ten universities are located. These deals were later followed by carriage agreements with Charter Communications on August 26 and Cox Communications on August 28. Also on August 26, 2008, The Indianapolis Star reported that Bright House Networks was "very close to a deal" to carry the channel. On September 30, Broadstripe added the channel to its systems in Michigan.
On June 23, 2009, Cablevision added the channel in standard and high definition to its Optimum systems. The following month on August 25, the network reached a carriage agreement with Atlantic Broadband, which added the network's standard and high definition feed on September 1, 2009, to its systems in central and northern Pennsylvania. On December 28, 2009, Charter Communications reached an agreement to provide the network to its systems in St. Louis and Southern Illinois on the provider's expanded basic-digital tier.
On July 24, 2017, the Big Ten Network announced they would be available on Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV.
On April 11, 2018, Comcast dropped Big Ten Network in a number of "out-of-market" states that fall outside of the conference's direct geographical footprint, with other selected markets dropping the network on May 10, 2018. This notably included the 23,000 Comcast customers in New York, despite the recent addition of Rutgers University in New Jersey having been used to market the conference and BTN in neighboring New York City.
In September 2008, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a request by Shaw Communications to allow carriage of BTN in Canada on its specialty television services. While CTVglobemedia filed a concern that it would create undue competition (which is prohibited between foreign and domestic services) with its mainstream sports channel TSN, the CRTC determined that Big Ten Network's specific scope in coverage did not create undue competition with domestic mainstream sports services such as TSN. The network became available to Shaw Cable customers on December 3, 2008. The channel became available on Rogers Cable systems in Ontario and New Brunswick on October 22, 2009.
As of 2020 the channel is carried by Cogeco, Eastlink, Rogers Cable, Shaw Cable, Shaw Direct and VMedia.
Other channels that show only college sports include: