The Big Ten Network is going to be slashing the academic programming on the network, due to a combination of sagging ratings, lack of contributions from some schools, and varying quality.
When BTN was launched in 2007, the goal was to provide up to 60 hours of academic programming a year from each school. Currently, the programming is down to a bare minimum, with more emphasis on quality productions as opposed to content for the sake of content. The major problem for the academic programming was that there wasn’t much of an interest aside from fans of the school being highlighed in most cases. As a Northwestern fan and Penn State alum, why would I want to watch a show about what’s going on locally on the Minnesota campus?
Some schools have slashed programming more than others, with Penn State leading the charge by cutting programming a whopping 95%. One major success in the academic field was Impact the World, a show debuting this past January that focused on research at all of the Big Ten member schools. Ratings for the program crushed the other academic programs on the network, and is planned to return for a second season in the fall.
The Longhorn Network plans to air 900 hours of academic programming by the end of their first year in existence, but they’re also airing types of programming that BTN never even considered, like class lectures and commencement ceremonies. It’s much easier to do this on a network focusing on one school like LHN, as opposed to the BTN and their twelve member focus.
Personally, I didn’t watch any academic programming, regardless of the school featured. At its very core, BTN and other college networks are sports networks. The academic programming is largely window dressing and to see them go by the wayside is no surprise. If this leads to more original sports series productions and live sports, I’m all for it, though.