Big Ten Conference Football Media Days

Monday July 24, 2017

Mark Silverman

THE MODERATOR: Today's first speaker will be Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman.

MARK SILVERMAN: Good morning, everybody. Another football season. They put me in the lead-off role this year. Hopefully I get on base, and have a nice event and successful days. But I'm thrilled to see you all again. BTN is coming off arguably our most successful year ever. We've produced more live events than ever before, we're 1,600 events. We had more studio hours than ever before and we sold more ad revenue than ever before. We grew our ratings and grew our digital viewership. And the network is able to continue to grow. And as we look forward, our over-the-top distribution continues to grow as well.

We'll be on DIRECTV NOW. We're on YouTube TV and we'll be on Hulu starting this fall. So regardless of how the industry evolves, BTN will be committed to be available to all our viewers across the country.

Keeping this year for BTN, it's our ten-year anniversary. This is when we always take a step back and realize, wow; it's been 10 years and we really wanted to do something special for the Big Ten fans that watch BTN.

So what we're going to do this year is we're going to have 11 shows, one for each year that has been on BTN, a special compilation-type show. And then to kick it off we're going to have a prelude show that details what went into the launch of BTN. The show is going to debut on our ten-year anniversary on August 30th. So it's something that we're really happy about.

We'll also have The Journey, do the best of, the 10 years of The Journey, that will have a special airing as well. And throughout the year we'll air various vignettes of famous moments that happened over the course of the 10 years on BTN.

That's something we're really excited about. This year we have a host of returning talent on BTN. I think one of the greatest contributors to our success has been the consistency of our talent year after year our talent knows the Big Ten better than anybody else. Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo, Howard Griffith will be back. They were with us from the very beginning, the first Saturday the network went on the air. Our other studio hosts, Mike Hall and Rick Pizzo, will be with us as well.

And we have a great number of talent that represents the Big Ten throughout a variety of different schools. And this year for the first time we're going to have a woman call a Big Ten football game. Lisa Byington has been with BTN for many years doing sideline and analysis for many sports including some men's basketball.

We'll be doing our first men's football game, the Northwestern-Bowling Green game, week three, on BTN. Really happy about that.

Then we have some new talent this year as well. We'd like to welcome Braylon Edwards, James Laurinaitis and Corey Wootten to the Big Ten team, further adding to our stable of talent at BTN as we continue to try and attract recent NFL grads coming to the Big Ten or schools that aren't as represented on BTN as much as we'd like. We're thrilled to bring them to the team.

And then our programming is going to continue this year. A lot of returning shows, BTN Live and BTN Football will continue as they have in the past, as well will The Journey. Sports Lite with Mike Hall will be back. Campus Eats, which was nominated for several different awards this past year in the cable television industry, will be back for a second year as well.

We're going to be doing a Big Ten Elite on the Penn State football team from this past year that made a great run to the Rose Bowl. And that will be airing later in the fall at a time to be announced. Our biggest show from last year, Big Ten Tailgate, will be back. And this show was just a great first year success, and we look to build upon this coming year.

The show's going to expand from an hour and a half to two hours. And we're going to be adding Stanley Jackson to our team to join Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo, Spice Adams and Michelle McMahon. We think it will be a great show as we visit a bunch of Big Ten schools throughout the season.

And Big Ten sponsors that we'll have as part of that show include GEICO, T-Mobile, TIAA, Navistar and Dairy Queen.

And then just to wrap up, as the industry continues to evolve, we're really focusing on growing our content. And Big Ten content, BTN content, we're looking to do more and more and have the content live on a variety of different platforms. So for the first time this year BTN games and programming will be available on Fox Sports GO, and that will increase the viewership of BTN-branded content.

BTN will be producing a weekly Ohio State football show for SportsTime Ohio hosted by Rick Pizzo and James Laurinaitis. We'll have the BTN brand out there on other networks. We're collaborating with ESPN on a P.J. Fleck show that will debut on ESPNU and also air on BTN.

We'll have content that will be airing on Facebook, Twitter and many other networks and platforms. We're in discussions with today that hopefully we'll have announcements in the weeks ahead. But as we grow you'll see an increasing amount of BTN-produced original content that airs not only on BTN but on a variety of different platforms as we want to be where our viewers are, we want to be able to get our content out there in as many places as possible. So with that, I will open up if anyone has any questions.

Q. At the start of the Big Ten Network it was very much about getting carriers to put the Big Ten Network on, right? Now here you're talking about creating Big Ten Network content to put on other platforms. Is that an acknowledgment of the evolving world and how much of a change in philosophy is that, do you think?
MARK SILVERMAN: I definitely think it's a recognition of the industry evolving. And when I mentioned our OTT providers as well, people are consuming content differently. And I think everyone in our industry needs to be very aware of that and you need to be able to get your branded content there.

And I'll give you an example of why this is important for us. This past year, The Journey, before the show aired on BTN, we would send out clips of the show on social media to get notice of the show.

So people would be watching this that are on their Facebook account, that are on their Twitter account, they'll see a little video, 30, 60, 90 seconds about The Journey. It will promote the show. Journey ratings are up 19 percent this year over the year before, yet we had more content out before the show even aired than ever before. So what had been a mindset of let's keep all the content close -- we don't want to share anything with anybody until the show airs -- is no longer, at least for BTN, the way we think we can maximize viewership and grow our brand.

So I'm encouraging our folks, before BTN Live, before Football and Beyond, send out content of the show before the show airs, let people take notice that the show's coming on -- there might be something that's coming on the show that I'm going to tune in and watch tonight.

If you're not leveraging the tens of millions of people that are on these different platforms during the day I think we're all missing a huge opportunity and it does cause you to rethink a bit how you run your network and how you grow your brand.

And if you're only promoting yourself on your own air, you're really limiting, with all the people out there, who is going to come in and watch your network, in our opinion. But, yeah, it's very much different than when it was when we first launched.

Q. What's your message overall to (indiscernible) who have decided they don't want to buy a standard cable package in this environment but still want to watch the Big Ten Network? And how do you plan to navigate the environment where more and more people have chosen to go with that package and not go with the cable package?
MARK SILVERMAN: I think the answer is the network and sports programming is available. If you don't want to subscribe to cable anymore there are different providers, some of which I mentioned earlier -- DIRECTV NOW, YouTube, Hulu -- there are other ways to get the content. The key for us is to make sure that we're agnostic.

If you want to watch -- we have distribution partnerships through cable, satellite, telephone companies and over-the-top providers. And you need to be available wherever your viewers opt to watch their content.

So I would tell people, we need to do our job of being widely available however it is you want to be able to watch the network. That's really been the driving force as to why -- our subscriber base is pretty much even from year to year. Whatever minor fallout there might be in cable is more than offset by the growing number on the over-the-top side.

Q. What does James Laurinaitis in your mind bring to the table?
MARK SILVERMAN: James Laurinaitis had perhaps the best screen test I've ever seen. James came in and the intelligence, how thoughtful, well spoken, for somebody who literally just retired months ago, really blew us all away. Played some of his career on BTN and to bring him back in it's a great add for us.

And with him and with Corey and Braylon, we're always looking, we want to keep what we have but keep expanding and growing. And we think people who watch James are going to be very impressed with what he has to offer.

Q. Mark, with night games, talking to the athletic directors earlier this spring, they said it's more on the networks right now to make those determinations. How are you guys working with your corporate partners in terms of determining what games should be night games and whether to protect those marquee games for the network versus the majors?
MARK SILVERMAN: That's a really good question. I'm going to defer that one, just the commissioner's coming up next and I believe it's something I believe the conference in its next media rights deal is better equipped to handle that question than I am.

But I can give you -- after the show, I'll give you BTN view, prime-time games are very important. You have the whole country watching games on Saturday nights. You have high ratings. You have a high amount of attention. I think it makes a heck of a lot of sense to try and have your premier games being played in a window that's going to attract the most attention. And I believe that's something, when BTN has a prime time game, we're always really thrilled and excited to have something in that kind of marquee timeframe.

Obviously BTN is just one of multiple media partners. And each of the media partners will have their share of prime time games. And it's something we're glad to be able to continue. Because you want to play in that game if you're in our business.

Q. You mentioned Laurinaitis, what do you see Braylon Edwards bringing to the table in terms of his ability to broadcast?
MARK SILVERMAN: Sure. Braylon came -- we were at Ann Arbor last year for a BTN Tailgate show. And during the course we had Braylon come on as a guest. And we were all, after the show we all said, wow, very polished, very presentable, smart. We looked at ourselves and we didn't have much on our talent side from Michigan, and we were looking to add -- over the years we've had some Michigan people on our show, alums on our show, but today there really weren't very many.

So we were looking for somebody and we were just, again, as with James, but with Braylon it was actually on air that we saw him and we all thought he'd be great to add to our team and we're excited to bring him on this year.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #2 by #267 at 2017-07-24 17:19:00 GMT

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