June 21, 2006

Big Ten college sports in TV deals with ABC, Fox

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Big Ten Conference on Wednesday
announced new partnerships to broadcast its college sports
programming on ABC and ESPN, as well as on a new cable channel
it plans to launch next year with Fox.

"This is the first effort to launch a national collegiate
sports network," Big Ten Commissioner James Delany said, adding
the agreements were aimed at giving the conference schools more
control over their "brand."

The Big Ten's cable channel to be based in Chicago will
launch in August 2007 with partner Fox Cable Networks, which is
owned by News Corporation Inc..

DirecTV Group Inc. has signed on as the 24-hour cable
channel's first affiliate, and negotiations will get under way
with cable distributors in markets across the United States
with the aim of reaching subscribers to the lowest-cost cable
packages, organizers said in a conference call with reporters.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed, with revenue shared
by the Midwestern state universities in the Big Ten conference
that includes Ohio State, the University of Michigan, the
University of Illinois and eight other schools.

The 111-year-old conference expanded to 11 schools in 1990
when Pennsylvania State University joined.

Fox will produce the games and sell advertising, which will
exclude purveyors of gambling or alcohol, even though beer ads
have often been a staple of college sports programming.

ABC and ESPN, networks owned by Walt Disney Co., will air
up to 17 and 25 football games, respectively, and ESPN and its
offshoots will air a portion of the men's basketball schedule.
CBS Corp. will continue broadcasting a selection of Big Ten
men's basketball games on weekends.

Delany said there were 4 million alumni of Big Ten schools
spread across the United States, presenting a ready market for
the conference's sports on TV, as well as planned online

In addition, the channel will air college sports like men's
hockey, women's volleyball, and Olympic-style sports such as
track and field, swimming, wrestling and events such as the
Pan-Am Games that feature Big Ten athletes, which will garner
interest, he said.

The cable channel will have access to 4,000 archived
"classic" Big Ten games, and will air coaches' shows, a likely
wrap-up show, and programming opportunities for the schools