We finally know which Big Ten games are on television this season and how good the news is depends on which of the six teams you cheer.
The conference unveiled Wednesday its more than 60 game national and local TV slate leading up to the Big Ten Tournament in St. Paul, MN on March 17-19, 2016. BTN, ESPNEWS/ESPNU, Fox Sports regional networks all the way down to local syndication (ASN) will broadcast.
BTN2Go, Watch ESPN, and - new this year - Fox Sports Go will stream games online.
No team has more games than Minnesota. The Gophers kick off the season on television October 10th against Vermont in the U.S. Hall of Fame Game. For the most part the two-time defending Big Ten champions stay on TV. 30 (possibly 31) of 35 games are initially scheduled to be on television. It is a total in line with recent years and spread across a half-dozen platforms.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ohio State has 9 games broadcast. 6 of those are nationally on BTN and ESPN.
Totals by team (not including Big Ten tournament):
- Minnesota: 30
- Michigan: 17
- Michigan State: 16
- Wisconsin: 14 (10 available in Wisconsin)
- Penn State: 11
- Ohio State: 9
The almost full TV schedule is at the bottom of the article.
Some other thoughts:
***Two seasons of Big Ten and college hockey realignment have helped create tangible patterns. BTN is more aware which fanbases tune into games and what hasn't worked. While many changes are a step back following a year where one team made the NCAA Tournament, there is some good like the aforementioned Minnesota, which thanks to adding games last year continued its streak of 30+ games on TV, and adding Fox Sports Go to streaming. It's getting easier for fans to watch out-of-market TV games.
Best of all, it's free streaming compared to the paid packages several other conferences have.
That said, it's becoming obvious the Minnesota hockey fanbase brings in eyeballs in greater numbers compared to any team. Keeping the status quo is a win in a year where national TV is going down and the other team with a ton of national TV games (Notre Dame) appears to have lost them. Minnesota-Notre Dame in South Bend is not on NBCSN and Hockey East's Media Day did not discuss games on the network.
***Like the Pairwise, national television doesn't care until December. As of right now there are no nationally televised games in college hockey over the first two months.
***More good: Michigan gets on TV a lot more this season. The Wolverines had a Big Ten-low 6 games on national television last year, which is surprising given the team's success and brand in other sports. This year is up to 8 national games. It could be more, but a good start for this year. Even the Gophers went down in national television games.
***ESPN visits the state of Michigan after missing the Wolverines and Spartans' homes for some reason.
***Wisconsin and Ohio State's multi-purpose arenas get skipped for home games.
***Pegula Arena and all its beauty get showcased twice. For the second straight season, ESPN will be there for THON weekend.
***ESPN games by team: Minnesota 3, OSU 2, PSU 2, Michigan 2, Wisconsin 2, Michigan State 1
***Some bad: As part of the downward trend in college hockey, BTN is cutting back games. By a pretty big amount. There are only 22 on the network this year, 17 if you take away the 5 B1G Tournament games in March, compared to the 27 total in 2014-15 and 30 in the conference's opening year.
***Frozen Fridays are essentially a thing of the past. Only two hockey-hockey doubleheaders are on the schedule, down from an initial 8 two seasons ago. (Two is the same number as CBS Sports Network.) Without them the conference loses a bit of national promotion.
***Some good (for me) - No doubleheaders means regular time starts instead of 6:30 ET and 8 p.m. CT. Fewer 8 p.m. local time starts selfishly is a good thing when on deadline.
***The "premier" BTN game being a hockey-hoops doubleheader is a telling sign.
***No one wants to broadcast non-conference games. This isn't just a Big Ten problem, but BTN features zero games featuring non-conference teams in a league with only 20 conference games.
Given some of the premier non-conference games (Ohio State faces the defending national champions, Notre Dame faces Minnesota and Penn State, Wisconsin plays North Dakota, and these do not scratch the surface), it's disappointing. College hockey is already fairly insular and regional. On one hand, maybe this is what fans want (see: conference tournament attendance). It is all about one school. They are voting with eyeballs. Depending on what school those NC games could be available locally, though.
(This includes all the in-state tournaments. Unless something changes the GLI, North Star College Cup and even the Beanpot are only available locally in the US.)
On the other hand, skipping two months of the season makes following and caring about the sport nationally more difficult and sends a bad message.
***TV hasn't shifted games to odd non-Friday/Saturday games with a couple exceptions.
***At some point it would be nice to give the Badgers some good news given how much bad news the team has had over the past 12 months. This isn't that day.
Wisconsin's four-win season cuts back the number of televised games. Only 7 are nationally televised (down from 10 in 2014-15) and 10 Badger games, not including the Big Ten Tournament, are available in Wisconsin. Four games are being produced in Michigan to air locally on Comcast 900 that currently are not scheduled to air in the other market. Three of the 10 games are syndicated by American Sports Network. None are on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
Three seasons ago, in the last year of the WCHA, the Badgers had 23 of its games aired live. No school has had such a drop. To be fair, there can always be more games added as UW has previously broadcast games on the Wisconsin Channel or FS Wisconsin. (Wisconsin has done this in the past.) However, AD Barry Alvarez wanting to join the Big Ten for bigger name value and more games on TV looks a lot worse.
**ASN is growing a presence in college hockey with adding locally syndicated Big Ten and Hockey East games.
***Despite taking a backseat to basketball even further, it's still a good package compared to the rest of college hockey. No conference has more games.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate