Oct. 26, 2008
Jim Delany, Big Ten Conference Commissioner
On the possibility of having both Big Ten Conference men's and women's basketball tournaments being held during the same week:
"I would say that's a possibility. Obviously not this year since we have a five-year deal with Indianapolis. I think it's very possible that one time in that period we will experiment with that. Everybody is looking for a better mousetrap, a way to bring everyone together and enhance both events. Obviously with their new Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse, there's that possibility. We're looking at formats, playing dates, ways to grow the women's tournament while enhancing the men's tournament and do it in a way that's a win-win. So, I think that's possible."
On what kind of hurdles that will be faced if both Big Ten Conference basketball tournaments take place in the same week:
"I think you have to take care of the hotel rooms, the venue, the class time missed issue, television and Big Ten Network involvement since they do nine of the 10 Big Ten women's games and three of the 10 men's games. They have to be comfortable with the format. I think you have to have hotels for the fans and teams, which would be 22 teams. There's always the sensitivity about trying to reduce the impact of missed class times when you play... what, four days for the men and the women just eliminated their day off. The question will be, 'How do you bring it all together in a way that doesn't increase the number of missed classes days?' Those are just some of the factors to consider. Obviously, it didn't happen last year and it won't this year. We've got three years left in Indy. I would say year four or five would probably be the time frame to take a shot at it."
On the current 18-game conference schedule:
"I think it's a good number. There are advocates for 20, but to be honest with you, they are in the minority. I think coaches have support for 18. I think there would be some who would support 20. Their concern is the impact on the RPI with the additional conference games. While the Pac-10 does play a full round-robin 18, some of the other major conferences are playing 16 even with more members. So, they're having double round-robin less... the SEC, Big East and the ACC are examples. While our fans like it, if you look at the average non-conference games and the average conference games, the ratings, the sponsorships, the fan appeal, the player appeal... It's all, on average, better. It's a higher RPI game, a more attractive game, yet more difficult. If you look at non-conference games, we typically win 70-80 percent of those and typical conference games, 50 percent. So, it affects the win-loss quotient of the RPI and the optic of what the record looks like."
Mark Silverman, Big Ten Network
On the growth of the network and future goals:
"The network is now available in over 90% of the homes in the Big Ten area. We're available in approximately 70 million homes in total. The distribution has come a long way in the last year. Most fans, if they want the network, are either getting it or are able to get it, which is really a huge accomplishment. If you look at television, we've only been on the air for about 15 months and we're pretty much distributed. So being able to accomplish that in this amount of time is something that's unusual. Usually distribution takes longer to get done. We've been able to get it done in a pretty good timeframe and what that means to the network is that we can focus on the programming, on the production, and making sure people know the network's out there. We added to our studio team this year. We're going to now be able to focus on making the network better. We've always been focused on that, but with having the distribution overhang, we can really now gear our focus to just improving the network."
On the Big Ten Network's basketball coverage:
"We are going to air more games than any other network. Forget about Big Ten games, just number of games. We're televising more than ESPN. We're televising more than ESPN2. We're streaming more than anybody. There is definitely a congestion during basketball season of men's and women's games so we need the streaming to complement what we have on TV as well."
On the Big Ten Network's coverage of women's basketball:
"We're going to be televising about 55 women's games this season, considerably more than any other network, by multiples more than any other network. That was a big part of our strategy. Our premier match-ups are going to be television in women's basketball, some non-conferences games, some top conference games. But in addition to that, we're going to be streaming another 40 events or so for free. Anyone who wants to watch it can just go to BTN.com and you'll be able see the games. That is where we want to increase significantly in future years. I've set out as a goal, within three years, every single women's basketball game, I want to have available. If it's not on television, I want it for free on the computer. So that's a very realistic goal as we go forward because what the computer allows you to do from a technology standpoint, it's much less labor intensive than producing for television. You don't have to worry about conflicts. We could stream five games at once and whatever team you're a fan of, you can watch whatever game you want. That platform allows us to cover so many more sports than you would normally be able to. We're just one network. It's something that we're excited about. We believe that even though the audiences for each game may be smaller than other sports, by offering up, for example, 20 women's Golden Gopher basketball games, you're reaching an aggregate of a lot of people. It adds up. It's a different way to think of an audience. Where television is about one game, a large amount of people, streaming is about many games and incrementally increasing your audience. Women's basketball is a crucial sport for us. After football and men's basketball, it's probably third in its overall importance. What I hope the role we can play, by putting out all these games on TV and on the computer, I want to increase the appeal of women's basketball. I think we're in a unique position to bring in new fans to the sport by putting it on and making it available."