Big Ten Conference to Create Cable Channel

The Big Ten Conference will create its own cable channel to showcase its athletic and academic programs and has reached new broadcast and cable deals with ABC Sports and ESPN, the conference announced Wednesday.

The new channel — which will be created in partnership with Fox Cable Networks — is expected to launch in August 2007, the Park Ridge, Ill.-based league said in a news release. The league also announced it has reached a new 10-year agreement with ABC and ESPN for coverage of football, men's and women's basketball and volleyball.

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"This agreement, among the most expansive ever, reinforces our position as the Number One college sports destination and serves the ever-evolving appetites of fans by providing premier Big Ten action through traditional outlets like ABC and ESPN and emerging entities such as Mobile ESPN and ESPN360," George Bodenheimer, president of ABC Sports and ESPN Inc., said in a statement.

ABC and ESPN will carry up to 41 Big Ten football games and ESPN will carry about 60 men's basketball games each season, including games on Tuesday and Thursday nights during the conference season, the conference said.

The Big Ten Channel will be available to satellite and cable distributors nationwide and also will be available through the Internet, i-Pods, cell phones and other technologies, the league said. DirecTV will offer the channel on its Total Choice package, which currently reaches about 15-point-four (m) million households, according to the news release.

"The Big Ten Channel will provide our conference the ability to strengthen both its brand and its long-term destiny as one of the leading academic and athletic conferences in the nation," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany.

The new cable channel will carry not only football and basketball, but also such sports as soccer, tennis, swimming and diving and wrestling — the so-called Olympic sports, the conference said.

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