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Big Ten Hockey: TV schedule not as sexy as previously expected

One alternative Wisconsin could offer its fans? A free streaming service for home games not shown on television.

Barry Alvarez's assertion the BTN would show at least 40 games this season proved to be false.
Barry Alvarez's assertion the BTN would show at least 40 games this season proved to be false.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten released its full hockey television schedule Monday, and some Wisconsin fans are left scratching their heads. The Badgers are featured on the league's flagship station, the Big Ten Network, just six times. Not only that, but the Wisconsin's early TV release includes just 11 games that will be televised from Wisconsin's 34 game schedule.

The Badgers also have two games scheduled for ESPN-U, two games scheduled for Fox Sports Wisconsin and one game that will appear on CBS College Sports.

Not exactly the robust media package we were led to believe was coming.

To fans of the Badgers who were already skeptical of the move to the Big Ten from the WCHA, this latest development only adds fuel to the fire.

When news broke that Wisconsin would be leaving the WCHA, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez told the Associated Press the Big Ten Network was committed to broadcasting over 40 games.

Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez praised the timing, citing "consistency" with leadership and administration for the schools as a plus as well as the added exposure that will come on cable television through the Big Ten Network.

Alvarez said the BTN has committed to broadcasting at least 40 hockey games per season. That TV revenue is the engine behind the move.

"It's good for our fans," Alvarez said. "Our fans identify with the teams that we play in the Big Ten."

40? Not quite, Barry.

According to a release from the league today, 22 regular season games have been scheduled to air on the Big Ten Network this season. All five games from the Big Ten Tournament will also be broadcast on the network.

For comparisons sake, Wisconsin appeared on the Big Ten Network four times last season. The Badgers also appeared on Fox College Sports (twice), NBC Sports Network (twice), along with Fox Sports Wisconsin and its alternate channel FS Wisconsin PLUS (15 times).

As I mentioned this afternoon, the difference between last years schedule and this season's right now is the home TV schedule on Fox Sports Wisconsin. Wisconsin Public Television produces those games, and they are shown on FS Wisconsin and FS Wisconsin PLUS. Last season, they produced 13 games. As of right now, they aren't officially scheduled to do any.

I'd be very surprised if that didn't change. It would be the first time that I can remember local TV not picking up any games. Remember, the two games FS Wisconsin plans to show this season will feature broadcast teams for Minnesota and Michigan State, as they are both road games.

But why isn't that deal already done? Good question, especially since Wisconsin knew the Big Ten would be releasing its TV schedule this week. To be fair, FS Wisconsin also broadcasts Milwaukee Bucks basketball, and they take priority on the network. That said, it didn't stop Fox Sports North -- who also features the Minnesota Timberwolves -- to commit to showing the Gophers. Also, with the addition of the FS Wisconsin PLUS channel, there should never be a conflict with the Bucks that can't be solved.

Back to the original point, we were sold on this new hockey league by the powers that be that schools like Wisconsin would be prominently featured on national television. That not only would there be additional revenue, but significant exposure.

The way it looks on paper right now, Wisconsin's TV schedule got worse, not better. Sure, they gained a couple additional national TV games, but was it at the expense of losing its home TV package? Even if the Badgers' home TV package was intact, was the transition to a new league worth three additional nationally televised games?

Not an easy question to answer.

To make matters worse, five of the six games the Badgers will play on the Big Ten Network, and one of the two games on ESPN-U are home games at the Kohl Center. So, it's not as if the home fans can even take advantage of being featured by a quality television broadcast.

The alternative the Wisconsin administration will force on its fans is the online streaming service through The service costs $9.95 per month, and in the past, it has given you the live stream of Wisconsin home games that were not broadcast on TV.

Unless they've got a surprise up their sleeves to get a deal done with Fox Sports Wisconsin that will show another 10-12 home games -- which, I suppose is still possible -- it would be smart to provide this service to the fans for free this season.

When you move to a new league many fans already want nothing to do with AND you cut the TV coverage in half, it's probably the least you can do for an already irritated fan base.

Friday Nov. 15 5:30 at Miami CBS Sports Network
Friday Nov. 29 4:00 at Minnesota ESPN U
Saturday Nov. 30 5:00 at Minnesota FS North/Wisconsin
Friday Jan. 10 8:00 MICHIGAN Big Ten Network
Friday Jan. 24 8:00 OHIO STATE Big Ten Network
Friday Jan. 31 5:30 at Michigan Big Ten Network
Thursday Feb. 6 7:30 MINNESOTA Big Ten Network
Friday Feb. 7 8:00 MINNESOTA Big Ten Network
Friday Feb. 21 8:00 MICHIGAN STATE Big Ten Network
Saturday Feb. 22 4:00 MICHIGAN STATE ESPN U
Saturday Mar. 15 3:00 at Michigan State FS Detroit/Wisconsin

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