Fox Looks to Draft a New BTN President

Fox is kicking off a search for a new president for the Big Ten Network.

Mark Silverman has been president of the channel, the first network built around a college sports conference, since before its launch in 2007.

In addition, Silverman was named president of Fox Sports’ national networks in January, giving him oversight of programming, production, marketing and digital for Fox, FS1 and live events and studio show.

This summer, Silverman managed to get a renewal of BTN’s key distribution contract with Comcast without a disruption.

It appeared BTN had a fight on its hands with the cable giant. Earlier this year Comcast dropped the network in states where the conference did not have schools. As the deadline approached in August, the network started running spots featuring well-known football coaches warning Comcast subscribers that they might not be able to watch Big Ten games this fall.

But at the last minute, Comcast agreed to a new carriage deal and the network was restored in out-of-state markets.

With the renewal in hand, Fox and Silverman decided Chicago-based BTN needed a full-time manager.

Fox’s in-house unit is handling the executive search. Both in-house and outside candidates will be considered.

BTN is a joint venture of the Big Ten Conference and 21st Century Fox and will remain part of Fox after other cable assets are sold to The Walt Disney Co. Fox owns 51% of the network.

The BTN board, composed of Fox executives led by Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks and Big Ten officials, will have to approve Silverman’s successor.

Silverman said he expects to have the new BTN president in place by early next year.

Despite a 12% drop in subscribers to 51.3 million, partly caused by the situation with Comcast, BTN’s affiliate revenue rose 4% to $343.1 million in 2018 from the previous year, according to an estimate by Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Cash flow also increased slightly to $158.6 million.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.