When the Big Ten Network was started five years ago, it offered each member university the chance to produce up to 60 hours a year of academic programming. Since then the channel has aired thousands of hours of shows highlighting scholarly work.
But this year the network is running less academic coverage as part of a new emphasis on higher-quality broadcasts that bring in better ratings, the Associated Press reports.
“When we came up with the number of hours, we didn’t know what the schools were capable of producing,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told the news service. “Most of them didn’t have the resources to produce the shows.”
“There’s fewer hours now,” he adds, “but the ratings are better and the production value is much better—top-notch, in fact.”
The change hasn’t gone over well with some people. Kecia Lynn hosted a program produced by the University of Iowa in which she interviewed prominent authors associated with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. That show has since been cancelled, the AP says.
Instead, the network is focusing on shows like “Impact the World,” an original series that has described Big Ten universities’ work, for example, with rare brain diseases.
The Big Ten’s presidents authorized the network to spend $500,000 to hire a production company for that series, says network spokeswoman Elizabeth Conlisk. And that show’s ratings are 10 times better than the channel’s other non-sports shows.
“You can have 500 hours of programming that nobody watched, and 10 hours that people do watch that have just as many viewers,” she told The Chronicle. “Our goal is to have the highest-quality shows as possible.”
(Photo by Bill Adams of the University of Iowa’s Kevin Kelley, a video producer working on a documentary for the Big Ten Network)