On last week's On Iowa podcast, an emailer asked about the BTN's decision not to air Iowa's spring game. The usually level-headed Marc Morehouse sort of went ballistic.
You're just Iowa. You're not Ohio State. That's what the Big Ten Network is telling you. They're taking a giant crap on you because you're just Iowa. That's the message.
The Big Ten Network has not been a good deal for Iowa fans. It just hasn't. Raycom, or whatever it was before on Channel 2, it was on CBS in Eastern Iowa, every nonconference Iowa basketball game was on the damn TV. Now? Well, you've got your little gadget. The Big Ten Network has crapped all over you, and you have no alternative but to just take it.
The Pac-12 Network televised every spring game from its conference, and there's 12 of them. This is crap.
It's the Big Ten Network and you're not. You're just Iowa. You should be mad. I don't know what to tell you, man.
I try not to quarrel with Mas Casa, and for good reason: He's usually right. And he's right in this case. The BTN has somehow made it more difficult for Iowa fans to see their teams, worsened the experience of watching the teams both on television and in the stadium, and eliminated somewhat-frequent games with centure-long rivals. And while the increased volume of television time has worked to the benefit of bluebloods like Ohio State and Michigan, it has only bastardized the fan experience for Iowa fans. Let's break down the argument, point-counterpoint style.
Point: The Spring Game
Despite the fact that it has enough dead space to air weeks-old replays of the Jesse Owens Invitational (on BTN Tuesday night) and the Big Ten Women's Golf Championship (airing three times over the next 24 hours), the BTN apparently has not found time to broadcast the Iowa spring game, played last weekend. There are three different Ohio State football games on the network today, all of which are less relevant than the spring games of the teams relegated to the streaming service.
According to Dochterman, the BTN claims that Iowa did not provide necessary equipment for the broadcast, but with more than two hours of video now available on BTN2Go, that complaint rings hollow. This isn't a lack of footage. This is a lack of interest in a program widely predicted to compete for a spot in the Big Ten's championship game by its own conference's flagship network. It's appaling, really.
Point: Night Games
Iowa football does not have a night game scheduled for the second consecutive season. Last year, after a 4-8 finish, it made sense. This year, it's largely because the league feels the need to punish all those Rutgers fans in New York City for having basic cable by putting the flaming wreckage of the Big Ten's newest addition in prime time twice (including a game with fellow NYC favorite Penn State). Other teams with prime time games on BTN this year: Maryland, Illinois, and Nebraska twice.
Did we mention that Iowa received $7.6 million from the BTN last year? Because it did.
Point: We Have to Go to Piscataway Now
The Big Ten, which had spent over 100 years as a Midwestern league, now includes road trips to Piscataway, New Jersey and College Park, Maryland. And where the additions of Penn State and Nebraska made sense geographically and culturally, the inclusion of Maryland and Rutgers is nothing more than a blatant grab at television sets for the BTN. When asked why in the hell Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, would leave its conference behind to join the Big Ten, its president threw a bag of gold bullion at the questioner.
The expansion to 14 teams means that Iowa will go two consecutive seasons without playing Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, or Penn State, as the Hawkeyes instead enter a home-and-home with the mighty Terrapins. It might be terrible for strength of schedule, but look at all of those shiny Washington televisions!
Counterpoint: The Things You Can Do With Money
Iowa took the nearly $8 million it got from the BTN last year and put it into new 'video boards' and speakers that it uses almost exclusively for additional advertisements and promotions. Using money to improve the gameday experience is stupid. Using that money to make more money? That's investment, homes.
Point: Basketball Is Somehow on TV Less
You might not be dying to watch Iowa batter Abilene Christian on a Tuesday night, but it would still be the best thing on television...if it were on television. Prior to the BTN, ESPN Plus and Raycom would give Mac McCausland a ham sandwich and have him broadcast the game on local television. Now? The BTN can't even be bothered to send a camera or two to the game and have announcers at its home office in Chicago provide commentary. Showing live basketball would get in the way of another #BTNLive replay. Yes, the show's title begins with a hashtag.
Counterpoint: You'll Feel Better When You Have Some Money
If BTN breaks into the NYC and DC markets, expected earnings could double. That would buy a lot of new facilities that we can name after Mediacom. You always wanted a Mediacom badminton arena.
Point: The Streaming Service Blows
BTN2Go has become more reliable, but live events still stutter on the rare occasions where they work at all. The broadcast of Iowa's spring game was plagued by technical problems that made it largely unwatchable. And where other sports streaming services (WatchESPN, MLB.TV, WWE Network, etc.) have developed applications for XBox and PlayStation so that streaming services can be watched on the big screen, BTN2Go is only available on the internet, iOS, and Android. So enjoy the spring game on your iPad, Iowa fan. And as problem-plagued as BTN2Go is, the All-Access digital service, which requires an additional monthly subscription payment, is even worse.
Counterpoint: Just Buy a Bigger iPad, Moneybags
You can afford it with your BTN lucre.
So has the BTN been a bad deal for Iowa fans? It has basically ignored the fact that the Hawkeyes are a century-old member of the conference, made it more difficult to watch your favorite team, caused undue drama with your cable provider, forced the conference to expand into areas that nobody wants to include, and made the football schedule and in-stadium fan experience worse. It also made the athletic department rich. Saying it is a 'bad deal' feels like a gross understatement.
Morehouse is wrong about one thing: The BTN is not dropping a Cleveland Steamer on the Iowa fan base. Content that popular in Ohio would not be wasted on Iowa.