The Big Ten Network quashed a Maryland direct-to-consumer streaming service

It did not take long for the Big Ten Network to dump cold water on Maryland's attempt to launch a streaming service.
Maryland logo Oct 1, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; A general view of two Maryland footballs on the field during the game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Iowa Hawkeyes at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Last fall, the University of Maryland’s athletic department announced a new streaming service called Terps Plus that would include ” behind-the-scenes videos, interviews and film breakdowns.”

The service would be similar to ones launched by other schools like LSU. However, there’s just one problem: Maryland never cleared the plan with the Big Ten Network, per the Washington Post.

After the service was announced, BTN quickly moved to stifle Maryland’s plans due to “the assignments of rights among the school, the conference and the Big Ten Network.”

BTN President Francois McGillicuddy sent a letter to Maryland athletic director Damon Evans outlining the network’s concerns, including the fact “that schools cannot license ancillary programming to third parties,” which is mentioned in the Big Ten Media Agreements Reference Manual.

McGillicuddy continued to cite this manual, noting that on the internet, the Big Ten Network “owns distribution rights to all Ancillary Programming beyond distribution on the Member Institution’s official athletic website.” McGillicuddy wrote that Maryland described Terps Plus content “in almost the same words” as the manual’s examples of ancillary programming. (Video content that is not game action is considered ancillary programming.)

McGillicuddy wrote: “So when you say that Terps+ will be available to ‘Terrapin fans nationwide’ and ‘will be consumable wherever Maryland fans want to watch,’ whether on TV, internet, social media, or phone apps, what you are saying is that the University intends to disregard all of the limits on how it can distribute Ancillary Programming. And when you say that Terps+ will be the ‘exclusive’ source of that programming, what you mean is that the University intends to deprive us of our ‘right to distribute [the University’s] Ancillary Programming at no cost.’

“The University has already harmed BTN by falsely implying that BTN is an ‘[un]official content network’ for the University’s Ancillary Programming. And actually launching Terps+ would inflict far greater harm. We look forward to resolving this amicably, but we reserve all rights.”

McGillicuddy and Evans then spoke on the phone, per an email also including then-Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. The email included the following comment.

“Given your indication of the absence of a contract with Sport & Story, and your expressed willingness to abide by our agreement with the B1G conference by not proceeding with Terps+, and removing all references to its launch, I am hopeful we can resolve this as efficiently and painlessly as possible.”

Sport & Story is the company that Maryland was going to partner with to launch Terps Plus. It was also behind the similar services at Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, and South Carolina. Maryland only had a “handshake agreement” with Sport & Story, per Maryland athletics’ chief strategy officer Brian Ullmann.

Maryland launched another streaming platform in 2020 called Terrapin Club Plus, which included the ancillary programming that would have been included in the Terps Plus service. But while BTN reminded the school of the media rights guidelines at the time, there was no violation on Maryland’s part because the Terrapin Club Plus content was distributed on Maryland’s website as opposed to a streaming app.

Given how much money the Big Ten is receiving from its media rights agreements, it’s not surprising that the conference is fiercely protective of its content. I wonder if it would be feasible for Maryland to add all this ancillary content to BTN+, and then offer up subscriptions to donors and other fans.

Anyway, don’t expect any other Big Ten schools to launch their own streaming service going forward after how quick Maryland’s attempt was shut down.

[Washington Post]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.