Getting into streaming bundles has been key for networks like ESPN, and conference networks are following suit. The latest one is the Big Ten Network. The Big Ten formally announced its long-ago signed and highly lucrative deal with ESPN and Fox (for football, plus CBS for basketball) Monday, but also mentioned that its conference network will now be available through streaming bundles from Hulu and YouTube TV. Conference commissioner Jim Delany (pictured above) announced more on that, as Kevin McGuire writes at College Football Talk:
In addition to a new six-year contract with ESPN and FOX for regular season coverage of football (and FOX with the Big Ten Championship Game), Delany also announced the Big Ten Network will be heading to Hulu and YouTube TV, making the network more accessible to those consumers who continue to cut the cord on their TV providers. While there are still plenty of cable subscribers available to reach and the majority of TV viewers are still using cable to watch their TV, the trends are more and more leaning toward the cord-cutting methods.
Indeed they are, and if BTN was able to gain a deal anything like ESPN (which has maintained that they get the same per-subscriber fee for streaming bundles that they do from traditional providers), being in streaming bundles is an obvious move. It increases the number of subscribers they get and the revenue they get from them, and even though ratings from streaming services are only partly counted by Nielsen at this point in time, ratings aren’t as crucial for conference networks as they are for bigger channels at this point in time.
Boosting BTN’s distribution matters for the conference on other fronts, too. BTN’s revenue has been a key part of the Big Ten’s rising per-school distributions, and giving the network more revenue should lead to more money going back to the universities. And it also means that more people have access to the channel, which makes it easier to put decent games on the channel with less fear of major blowback from those who don’t get it, which boosts subscribers further, and so on and so forth. The channel did take a blow on another front with the revelation that the conference will let its schools schedule FCS opponents again (under certain circumstances), creating some low-value games that will likely wind up on the conference network, but it also got a boost from these streaming bundle announcements. And it’s worth noting that BTN is already in DirecTV Now (at the $50/month level and above) and PS Vue (at the $45/month level and above), so they have pretty decent streaming bundle presence.