The Big Ten is home to some of the biggest universities in the country, four of the top 10 based on the most recent U.S. News & World Report. Those big schools produce a lot of alumni, and those alumni spread out throughout the country and world once they're done with college. That's part of the genius of the Big Ten Network.
Not only was BTN the first mover on the conference-network front, it also has a potentially huge customer base when you just think of the alums, not to mention fans in general, and they're everywhere. And while I know there were pockets of Big Ten fans everywhere, I was still somewhat impressed that you could be in Atlanta or Seattle and not have too much difficulty finding BTN.
Comcast, apparently, was less impressed. The company is dropping BTN in "out-of-market" states. Per a company email to USA Today, that's any state that's not Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (Comcast isn't currently available in Iowa or Nebraska, so no change there.)
The result of this news was much Twitter Sturm und Drang, and BTN, not surprisingly, wasn't doing anything to tamp it down.
Comcast XFinity has decided unilaterally to drop BTN in many markets. All of their competitors still carry BTN everywhere. We at BTN share your disappointment. Let Comcast know how you feel.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) April 12, 2018
There's obviously a financial impact here for BTN, which is co-owned by the Big Ten. Comcast is still the largest cable provider in the country, and the whole cable gambit for networks has been to make money off not just their customers (those that subscribe because of your content) but even the people who aren't (those that don't care about your content but get and pay for it anyway because it's attached to something they do want). It's a great deal if you're BTN or ESPN, and one that is totally at odds with what an on-demand, access-to-anything media landscape continues to become. That battle will go on for years, but we all seem to know how it ends.
And that's why I don't think yesterday's news is that big for BTN. The potential monetary losses might spur the network towards whatever future it already must be planning more quickly. (One would assume that future is a self-contained streaming service.) Not being ahead of the game on this would be a bigger surprise, given where the BTN has traditionally been, and much greater blow. Out-of-market fans who care about getting BTN will find a way to get it, and Comcast was clearly fine potentially losing those customers (however many there were).
But it will be worth watching what happens with the payout games (you know, those stories when the SEC says "we got $XX million per school" and the Big Ten says "we got $XX+1 million" and everyone marvels). The model that enabled those massive payouts is changing, and it's probably fair to expect the money that comes with it to change, too.
Yesterday I put up a new poll on the main page asking which quarterback Husker fans expect to start the season opener. It was up for about an hour before I had to remove one name, Patrick O'Brien, from the list. Now I might have to look at eventually adding one.
Could still be a long shot, but don't write off Noah Vedral in 2018. https://t.co/ZrzRjIldom
— Tom Shatel (@tomshatelOWH) April 12, 2018
I don't think it's overstating things to say that if Vedral were to be eligible in 2018 it would change everything we've talked about so far with Nebraska's quarterback race. All of the handicapping that's already happened was based on the assumption that the guy most familiar with the offense could only operate it offstage for a year. But if Vedral can play, I think most would assume he would be the starter and then the only question left is "do the Huskers when 11 games in 2018 or just go ahead and win all 12?"
Totally kidding, but Vedral would probably change a lot of people's cautiously optimistic outlook on 2018 to something closer to unguardedly optimistic. Have to be careful not to go too far down that road. Vedral did only attempt 29 passes and have 18 rushes in 2017, but that's 29 and 18 more than anyone else on the roster had last season in any offense.
The O'Brien news wasn't much of a surprise. The Vedral news, if he were to get a waiver to play right away, would be the best kind of surprise for Nebraska fans.
The Grab Bag
- ESPN launched its new streaming service, ESPN+, on Thursday.
- As if Shaquem Griffin wasn't alrady cool enough, here he is sporting the new Germany kit. Don't go there for that, of course, it's but a bonus to another good story on the UCF linebacker.
- Former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight is transferring to UCLA, which seems like an odd fit style-wise.
- ICYMI: There was some non-QB news from practice yesterday. Jacob Padilla takes a look at the Huskers' upcoming series with Iowa. And Lauren Cook is back to take you inside the transfer process.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.