Big Ten TV future: Conference tournament ratings show vast difference between ESPN and Fox Sports 1

Last week, I wrote a column in the Tribune about the Big Ten’s upcoming negotiations on a TV deal and how the conference might have a choice between staying with ESPN or going with Fox Sports 1 on the cable side. It detailed the risks of leaving the broad reach of ESPN for FS1, which has been struggling to gain a foothold.

The ratings from last week’s conference tournaments should provide some interesting perspective for Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.

The Big East title game between Villanova, an eventual No. 1 seed, and Xavier averaged 414,000 viewers on FS1.

Meanwhile, of the 22 tournament games that aired on ESPN last week, the least-viewed was an ACC second round game on Wednesday afternoon, and that still pulled in 479,000 viewers.

ESPN televised seven conference title games. The least-viewed was 780,000 viewers tuning in for the Valparaiso-Wisconsin-Green Bay title game in the Horizon League. The American title game (UConn vs. SMU) averaged 1.5 million viewers.

As for the Big Ten tournament games on ESPN, the Wisconsin-Michigan quarterfinal game, which tipped off at 11 a.m. Friday, pulled in 1.06 million viewers. All told, three of the five Big Ten games that aired on ESPN had more than 925,000 viewers.

Certainly some numbers to consider for Delany.

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