Questions for BigTenNetwork President

September 17, 2009

I’m supposed to be talking with a representative from the BTN tomorrow via telephone to discuss the new streaming venture available at video.bigtennetwork.com. I’ve got a list of questions going here right now. If you’ve got any other ideas, let me know in the comments. I’m not sure how much he’ll be able to answer, but I want to try as much as I can.

1) We’ve got a start. What sports can we expect this fall? I’ve seen volleyball and basketball on the schedule page already.

In 2009-10, the Big Ten Network is streaming a number of games in volleyball, exhibition and selected non-conference men’s basketball, selected non-conference and conference women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, wrestling, baseball and softball.

Are you going to get to any of the bigger field sports this fall semester? (soccer, field hockey, etc)

2) On that same note, will televised basketball and football games be archived for the same price, or will people have to go to the BigTenTicket?

3) Judging by the initial sports chosen (except maybe baseball/softball), are these going to be stationary single-camera views only?

4)What is the limiting factor on number of games streamed? Money? People? Gauging Interest?

5) Looking at the sports listed in the schedule page, there are a couple non-BigTen sports listed such as lacrosse and ice hockey. Does the BTN have a policy on those broadcasts? Does it have to be an official NCAA sports to be streamed, specifically, would the BTN show Michigan lacrosse (or Penn State ice hockey) as only a club sport? Also, I assume ice hockey will be only selected, BigTen-member home games.

6) Are these broadcasts going to include full announcing crews? If so, are they furnished by the BigTen or by the individual schools through either students or SIDs?

7) Obviously I haven’t seen a game on it yet, how are the commercials embedded into the broadcast? Are there commercials embedded into the broadcast, as we’re paying for the viewing experience already?

8) With the issues brought up about streaming in the US vs internationally, will the streams be equally available to US and international viewers (live or not)?

9) How long does a game stay in “my games”? I saw something that said “the end of the season.” Can I get some clarification on what that means? Does that mean 4-6 weeks after the NCAA championship?

10) If I purchase a game that doesn’t end up being played/broadcast, whether for weather or technical issues, does the BTN have a refund policy?

11) Are you allowed to disclose why the BTN isn’t offering a team/season package?

12) ESPN360 is what most of my readers can compare your service to, which has raised the question, are their plans after the next negotiation with service providers to make streaming live televised games in the US?

13) Our readship obviously has plenty of other comments and suggestions, some streaming, some non-streaming related, rather than burdening you with some of these technical or philosophical questions, where can I direct their concerns and questions? Just as an example, I get plenty of comments about the BigTen’s greatest games’ commercial break teasers being spoilers.

14)

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Foray in Michigan Volleyball

July 25, 2009

pvballMy baseball coach’s daughter playing for my high school now. Jesus, I remember when she was like 12. Now she’s their ace.

As mentioned previously, I’m also looking to expand coverage of the Michigan Volleyball team.  I’ve found in my home town, the sports of baseball and volleyball go hand in hand.  The two sports are on complete opposite ends of the sports scheduling spectrum, making it easy for the two teams to see the other play.  As a baseball player, I was never stuck in practice and unable to see the volleyball team play.  Same went for the volleyball players who would fill the baseball stands.  And yes, we did pack each others’ games.  By my senior year, the baseball team packed the student section with the “bleacher bums” equipped with t-shirts made by the volleyball players.  Come spring, they were our “bleacher babes.”  It was a great (however stereotypical suburban high school) relationship between the two teams.

It also stretched past the fields.  Many of the baseball players, including myself (however badly that ended up in retrospect), dated volleyball players.  Two of my best friends in life are still a pair of volleyball players from my time at high school.  The two teams just gelled, and it has had a lasting effect on my sports fandom.

It’s not just me.

I’ve always been a fan of playing volleyball and volleyball-esque games.  Since becoming inundated with the game through my then girlfriend, I would estimate I’ve played more volleyball than any other sport.  It started with playing volleyball a town over at their lighted sand courts, but in college, it hit a new high.  I joined Alpha Delta Phi (yes, the one with the volleyball court out front).  While opinions of us may vary depending on who you talk to or who you may know, the volleyball court is probably the most defining feature of our house.

Many of my greatest memories of the house happened while playing on the volleyball court.  While there were obviously great bonds built, every year those started at the same spot.  Every August, as move in is just beginning, volleyball becomes the focus.  Guys in the house, passerby’s on the street, volleyball is that fun distraction that drew us all in.  It’s where we’d catch up with our brothers and friends we’ve missed over the last four months.

As college went on, I was introduced to wally-ball.  For those of you not familiar with this particular intramural, you’re really missing out.  It’s volleyball meets racquetball.  You play in the racquetball court and off walls.  The season I played co-ed with my house and the sister sorority de jour was one of my favorite experiences in IM sports.

After I left Michigan, I worked in Chicago for a year and had a brief stint with a men’s club team there.   My work schedule limited my participation, but it was interesting none-the-less.  While being one of only two straight guys on our team of 12 was awkward, being able to smash down as an right side hitter was a great release from the rigorous travel schedule at work.

Since returning home to Houston, I’ve tried to make a point to get out at least once a month to the volleyball courts.  I’ve also made it a goal to see more high school and college games.  Last year, I was lucky enough to catch Michigan play at the Rice Invitational.  I think I was the only non-parent at the game.  I watched Bower and Paz, two players I will probably write a bit more about soon, rip up Louisiana Lafayette in 3 straight games.   It was awesome.  It was also the last time I got to see Kerry Hance – dig through enough old haloscan comment sections of mgoblog v1.0 and it may reveal some drooling over her on my part.  But sigh, she’s graduated on to bigger and better things.

08 Team, There’s Kerry, front and center… (pic from mgoblue)

I occasionally posted a brief fanpost on maizenbrew or mgoblog, but I never really got into the blogging thing.  That post, along with my blogging of the baseball Big10 tournament in 2008, though, lead me to start the blogging of baseball full time.

So that brings us back to now.  After a season of baseball blogging, I’m looking to also bring in volleyball.  I’m not really sure how I’m going to go at it though.  I’m running into several problems, most notably lack of media coverage.  I’m hoping the opening series at the Nebraska/Runza/AVCA Showcase will make it onto CBS College Sports or ESPNU.  This being THE tournament of the volleyball season (imagine the preseason-NIT but bigger), there is a good chance that much of it will be televised, especially our match versus home team and probably preseason top 3 team Nebraska.

After that, the BigTenNetwork hasn’t released any programming schedules with regard to volleyball.  Last year’s coverage was meager at best. They only offered 20 conference games (one per night) over the course of the season, seven of which included Michigan.  I’m really hoping we can see more streamed coverage from either BTN or MGoBlue.com.  I’m not expecting it though.

We’ll see how things go over the next few weeks.  I’ll probably start with previews and background information here, then post them as diaries on mgoblog as a litmus test for how fans respond.  I’ve been informed that the volleyball team has quite a cult following, and I’m hoping I can offer them more coverage as they desire.

Women’s volleyball is hot, your argument is invalid.

I’m somewhat afraid that the mgoblog community isn’t the greatest platform to start coverage.  Many fans on there aren’t really fans of the school as much as they are the football team.  To invite fans of the school (as you almost have to be in to be a supporter of a non-revenue sport) into this pre-existing community could scare off some readership.  I really liked the community feeling we were gaining at VarsityBlue with the baseball crowd.  I’m not sure they’ll care to put up with the football crowd.  So those are just the thought’s I’m having right now.

Depending on how Brian orients his site as a source, it could work out nicely or play to my fears.  If my posts are semi-buried, I may be able to insulate the non-revenue varsity sports fans from the ridiculousness that is mgoboard.  Unfortunately, I anticipate that that crowd will seep over regardless of how I try to insulate my posts.

That said, insulating my posts isn’t something I really want to do.  By trying to set myself apart, I lose exposure for the sport coverage.  I’m not sure what the best option is.  I think the best option going forward is to post here and then diaries, hoping to do something like 40Acres does at BurntOrangeNation with his baseball posts.  I can post tid-bit recaps without much substance just to say, “hey, volleyball exists and they won.”  Make those posts on Sunday before football posting kicks in with thought out reflections as a hold over.

But as I’ve said, I’ve got time to figure that out.


I’ve Been Bought Out

July 24, 2009

News finally broke today that VarsityBlue, my home to Michigan baseball coverage the last 5 months, has been absorbed by MGoBlog – the leader in University of Michigan sports coverage not related to the actual school.  For those of you not familiar with the sports blogging world, Brian, the creator of MGoBlog, is widely heralded for being an innovator when it comes to the medium (college sporting blogs related to a specific school, and to an extent, college sports in general).  His site, created as a writing outlet for a fan, has grown into one of the largest individual sites dedicated to college football.  He became so successful that he was able to give up his job as an software engineer and do the blog full time – and for good money.

Now, after experimenting with a recruiting correspondent for a few months, Brian is looking to absorb VarsityBlue with Tim as a lead reporter, Paul as an Ann Arbor based correspondent (Tim’s not always in Ann Arbor), and me doing baseball.   This is a great chance for me to increase exposure of not only Michigan baseball, but my own writing.  I’m not opposed to either of those, obviously.  Really, that goals post was written the day before I found out there were plans for the absorbtion.  At least I have a plan to put towards Brian now at least?

So while details on my role have been sparse, I’m hoping to start getting things kicking in the next few weeks.  I’ve got to discuss with Brian his thoughts on other minor sports, particularly ones that happen during football season.  I’ve got some ideas about limited volleyball coverage, but I need to run it by him.  The goal of the merger appears to be making MGoBlog into the media center for Michigan sports coverage, which means any new coverage would be warranted.  Brian’s already discussing the problem of providing too much content, which is a very valid concern.  If there’s too much, people will just be overwhelmed by the content.  I’ll play it by ear.

Also, with the transition to MGoBlog, I’m contemplating my current use of anonymity.  With VarsityBlue, as well as commenting on MGoBlog for the last two years, I’ve stuck with the tag name of formerlyanonymous.  I’m contemplating going to my real name for posting there not only for exposure, but more importantly for validity.  By putting my name to my work, I’m taking a larger responsibility in what I say and think.  I can’t hide behind the faceless entity of “formerlyanonymous.”  I would put my work to my name, which will help with my credibility as a writer.  Plus, I mean it makes me even more “formerly anonymous.”  And who doesn’t like clever tags like that?

I’ll be updating some links, tags, and categories on here in the meantime.  Once I know how the new MGoBlog will work, I’ll provide an update along with creating an RSS feed of posts on the new big site.

Excitement.


Weekend Recap: Illinois

April 13, 2009

Game 1

Box Score R H E
Illinois 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 1
Michigan 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 x 4 9 0

W – Chris Fetter (5-1) L – Haig (3-2) Sv – None

BTN Coverage (this will supposedly work on VBlue):

Like the guys said, the story of this game was Chris Fetter. In his second complete game of the year, Chris struck out 13 batters (about half the outs in the game), including 7 hitters that went down looking. Fetter was economical with most hitters, only throwing 136 pitches (the exact same number as his last complete game against Penn State). He only allowed 6 hits and two walks. Great game overall. Something I’m interested to keep an eye on is how these back to back complete games affect his pitching down the stretch. Fetter has been quoted by the WBCN crew during the IPFW series that he is shooting for only 120 pitches per game. I can’t blame Maloney for letting the kid get his complete game wins, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fetter left some games sooner just to protect his arm.

On offense, we scraped to get the runs we did. In the second inning, we managed to avoid a fielder’s choice by utilizing the hit and run, we (unofficially) sacrifice flied a runner from second to third, and got the timely singles to score 2 runs. For the go ahead run in the 7th, we used the sacrifice fly to plate the run.

The positive on offense was sticking to single digit strikeouts and getting baserunners on every inning. The bad was we left runners on base every inning as well, including 4 in scoring position. If there ever was an inning to describe Michigan’s season it has to be the 6th:

Michigan 6th – Toth doubled down the lf line (0-0). Lorenz out at first 1b to 2b, SAC, bunt (0-0); Toth advanced to third. Kalczynski struck out swinging (0-2 FFS). Cislo struck out swinging (2-2 KBBSS). 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB.

We get pressure on the other teams early then fade down the stretch. The metaphor works for the season as well. We come out with power, but the power fades as we go along. Sigh…

Notable Stars

  • Chris Fetter – CG, W, 6 H, 13 K, 2 BB, 2 ER
  • Anthony Toth – 2/4  2 R, 3B, 2B
  • Ryan LaMarre – 0/0  R, 4 BB (in 4 at bats, he saw 26 pitches, impressive)
  • Fan Attendance: 1056… best this year.

Notable Goats

  • This was solid game… everyone gets off the hook

Other Notes

  • Other Chris’s daughter caught a fly ball in the Michigan win, quoted to have said this:  “This is one of the best days of my life! And if Michigan wins, it will move into the top ten.”
  • CollegeBaseballToday.com – Chris gets an Honorable Mention in the Big10 Pitchers segment…”When Chris Fetter is on the mound, Michigan becomes one of the best teams in the nation. But beyond him?…”
  • Michigan Daily – Liveblog Redacted. If I find where it went I’ll relink it here.
  • SID Release – Coach Maloney Moves Toth up to 7th in the order:  “He was huge for us today. I moved him up in the order to try to keep what we consider our seven best hitters in a row, and he really came through big for us tonight.”  This appears to be an attempt to limit the LOB in the middle of the order.

Game 2

Box Score R H E
Illinois 0 0 0 3 2 5 0 0 0 10 9 3
Michigan 3 0 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 8 13 2

W – Zerrusen (2-0)   L – Kolby Wood (0-1)   Sv – Strack (1)

So remember when I said this:

Katzman has done well lately, but that just means he’s due for a less than stellar start as well.

That happened.  While Katzman didn’t have a horrible start, he certainly didn’t have the same stuff he’d had the last two weeks.  He worked into a little trouble in the first with back to back singles to open the frame, but managed to eek his way out.  He wasn’t so lucky in the fourth inning.  Katzman loaded the bases to start the inning (sac bunt in the middle of that).  He then hit a batter to force in a run, followed by a 2 RBI single from Bonadonna.

Kolby Wood would enter in relief of Katzman and get a quick out to stop the bleeding.  In Wood’s first full inning of work, things started off shaky with a fielding error by Anthony Toth.  With two outs and a runner on third (the one to reach on the error), Wood gave up a two run home run (both runs unearned).  The next inning started similarly, but this time with a throwing error by John Lorenz. Wood then gave up back to back hits, scoring a pair of runs (one unearned).  Miller would relieve him but struggled as well giving up a walk, back-to-back doubles, and a single before striking out the next two batters in the inning.  This would put the Illini up 10-6, and their offense went into cruise control to the finish.

The offense was surprisingly good in this game, knocking out the Big10’s top pitcher after just one inning.  Ben Reeser, the Illinois starter managed just 1 inning with 3 hits, 3 runs, and a walk.  Coley Crank was the only starter without a hit, but 5 starters (Cislo, Fellows, LaMarre, Oaks, Toth) had two a piece.

If you were to tell me Michigan was going to score 8 runs on 13 hits while only stranding 8 and striking out 7 times, I’d feel pretty good about that game.  Unfortunately the pitching didn’t hold us in the game.  The Illini hit the big inning in the 6th; it was too much to recover from.

Notable Stars

  • Ryan LaMarre – 2/3  3 RBI, 2 R, 2 SACF, 2B
  • Kevin Cislo – 2/3  2 R, 2 BB, SB, 2B
  • Alan Oaks – 2/5  Solo-HR
  • Anthony Toth – 2/4 BB
  • Kenny Fellows – 2/4 R, 2B, SACB
  • Mike Dufek – 1/5  2B (off the top of the Brick Monster to steal a HR)
  • Attendance – Woo Spring Game crowd: 1942!
  • Coach Maloney – Ejected (see the note below)

Notable Goats

  • Toth & Lorenz – The errors to lead off the 5th and 6th innings lead to 3 unearned runs… more than the difference in the game.

Other Notes

  • Maloney was ejected in the 6th inning arguing on behalf of Kevin Cislo.  There was a close safe call made at second base and the crowd didn’t like it, Cislo didn’t like it, Maloney didn’t like it.  He made his way out to the umpire (I believe it was veteran umpire Bruce Doane) to make his case.  According to Daily staff writer Ryan Kartje,  he went “all “Lou Piniella” on the ump to waves of support from the crowd.  No dirt kicking as of yet.  But regardless, Maloney gets tossed from the game and the crowd loves it.”  I like the move by Maloney to go for the ejection.  Sometimes it can light a fire under the team.  It didn’t work this time, but hey, sometimes you’ve just got to do that as a manager.
  • Daily Live Blog – as linked above in the Maloney note, Kartje live blogged the game.  I really like this from the Daily.  It definitely supplements the box scores really well.

Game 3

Box Score R H E
Illinois 0 3 0 2 0 0 1 4 1 11 19 0
Michigan 2 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 5 10 2

W – Roberts, B (3-0)   L – Alan Oaks (0-1)   Sv – Martin (2).

Keeping along with our recent Sunday streak, our pitching staff struggled most of the game.  This game was back and forth as the scoreboard above shows, but the key came when Alan Oaks out-stayed his welcome.   After already throwing 53 pitches, a career high, he trotted out to an eighth inning he wouldn’t make it out of; he gave up 3 singles and a double to start what would be a four run inning for the Illini.

In defense of Oaks, he pitched very well in the 4 innings leading up to this point, giving up just one unearned run in 4 innings of relief of Travis Smith.  Speaking of Smith, his start was disappointing as well.  He gave up the first 5 runs (4 earned) to the Illini in just over 3 innings of work.  We really need someone to step up and earn this starting spot, whether it be Smith, Wilson, Sinnery, Vangheluwe, Wood, or someone new.

Speaking of Wilson and Sinnery, they closed the game out fairly well, throwing 2 innings while giving up only one unearned run.

Offense was top heavy – top of the lineup that is.  Fellows, LaMarre, and Dufek each had a pair of hits including a homer and double by Dufek – the only extra base hits of the game.  Dufek’s two hits drove in all four Wolverine RBIs in the game, and his grounded into double play also drove.    Toth, Lorenz, and Kalczynski each added a hit a piece from the bottom of the lineup, but lead to no runs scored or driven in.

Notable Stars

  • Mike Dufek – 2/4  4 RBI, R, HR, 2B
  • Ryan LaMarre – 2/3  2 R
  • Kenny Fellows – 2/3  R, BB

Notable Goats

  • Alan Oaks (at bat) – 0/4  3 Ks, 1 LOB
  • DH/PH (Crank, Urban, & Kittle) – 0/4 K
  • Fellows & Lorenz – Errors leading to a pair of unearned runs

Other Notes

  • The Daily – Relief pitching dooms M.  I respectfully disagree.  Timely hitting mixed in with a lack of consistency from the bullpen and the defense behind them.  There were quite a few errors to start innings for bullpen pitchers.
  • The Daily – Live Blog Game 3 is more good stuff.  I love how the only comment is by “S. Toth” appealing Kartje’s notion that the team doesn’t turn too many double plays.    While we may not be the Big10 leaders, we do turn our fair share of them (.82 per game as of 4/5/09)
  • Daily Illini – Haig’s start was disappointing as Fetter was great, but the Illini won the weekend series
  • Illinois Baseball Report – Dittman carries Illini this weekend

Wrap Up

While losing 2 of 3 is never a great thing, I don’t think this was too bad of a weekend for the team.  Illinois is one of the better teams in the conference this season, especially in the pitching department.  There were a few lapses though, especially on defense.  After the great effort in game one, we had two errors in each of the last two games leading to four unearned runs.  We’ve got to cut those down.

After this weekend’s action, Michigan is now 7th (tied with PSU, but Nittany Lions have the tie breaker) in the Big10 at 4-4.  Only the top 6 teams make the BTT, so we’ve got some ground to make up.  That starts this weekend with Michigan State.  We play in East Lansing at their new ball park on Friday and Sunday, but play the middle game of the series at the Fish.  All indications are that Michigan should sweep the Spartans, but they have a pitcher in Nolan Moody who poses quite a challenge.

As for the mid week, we face Toledo on Tuesday and have the rubber match with EMU in Ann Arbor on Wednesday.  Toledo could be a challenge, but I don’t expect much from their mid week starter.  As for EMU, we’ve already seen what they can do.  I can’t see our guys taking the same “oh, its just EMU” mindset as last time.


Formerly on Maizenbrew: BTN Baseball Schedule

February 10, 2009

They announced the BigTen Network viewing schedule for Baseball and Softball today.  Threw up a Fanpost at Maizenbrew.com.  Not many games again this year.  The whole Ohio State series will be shown though.  The big news is the entire Big10 Tournament will be shown this year, not just the last few games.

Update:   Even got bumped to the front page, thanks Beauford.  Excellent.