The Big Ten baseball tournament started this morning, as No. 3 seeded Michigan battled against No. 6 seeded Indiana. The Ohio State Buckeyes will try to solidify their NCAA standing against the No. 2 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes at 2 p.m. as well. If you don't have BTN Plus though, you won't be able to see either game, since they're not on TV. In fact, should Ohio State lose against Iowa, and also lose their second game, their entire B1G Tournament run will not be televised.
Every other major conference is showing every single one of their baseball tournament games on TV, but the Big Ten will only show 11 of their 15 tournament games on BTN. We spoke with BTN VPs Elizabeth Conlisk and Michael Calderon to find out why.
First, Ms. Conlisk said that BTN's agreement with the Big Ten did not change after the conference added Maryland and Rutgers, so they were only contracted to broadcast the same number of games as before. Prior to 2014, the Big Ten baseball tournament only had six teams, but after the conference expansion, it now has eight, but the conference and network have not renegotiated the agreement since then. Last year, the first two games weren't even on BTN Plus.
Both VPs told me that the network investigated the cost-effectiveness of broadcasting every game on BTN, but after evaluating the cost-benefits, decided against it. One reason was to help spare their production team. "To produce all four games, our crew would need to work from 4 a.m. until about 1 a.m, and then be back at work three hours later for the next day's games," said Ms. Conlisk. Part of the reason for a potentially long workday is because the Big Ten tournament doesn't have an especially condensed game schedule. If one game finishes early, the next game starts at the same scheduled time, unlike the SEC, which has second games listed as "TBA".
There's also the reality that even though this is a banner year for Big Ten baseball, demand for the early games in this tournament isn't likely to be that high. Michigan and Indiana started at 9 a.m. local time, and Ohio State and Iowa, while an important game, will still take place during the workday (when, Mr. Calderon mentioned, potential viewers are more likely to have BTN Plus access anyway). Given the logistical, contractual and financial costs, with potentially a lower rate of return, one can see how the BTN reached this decision.
Is it an ideal situation? No, especially since two of the bigger names in the conference, (Ohio State and Michigan) are playing in the early games, and since many of the early games have significant NCAA implications. The network did schedule 199 live baseball broadcasts (22 on BTN, 162 on BTN Plus, plus the tournament), all while juggling demands for spring football, softball, lacrosse, and more.
Big Ten baseball has some momentum behind it, so will this change for the future? Mr. Calderon said that "he can't promise there will be a revision this summer', but "there's momentum here to look at what the outline is for the BTN in terms of this coverage."
As the sport continues to grow, and demand with it, there's a good chance that how Big Ten baseball is televised will change too. For now though, hope that Ohio State is able to steal a game early on in the tournament. Not only will that help their NCAA chances, it'll make it way easier to see them on TV the rest of this season.