Fox Sports announces new president for network

The Big Ten Conference and Fox Sports will announce today that they’ve hired cable-TV executive Mark Silverman to become president of the Big Ten Network.

Silverman has resigned as senior VP and general manager of the Disney ABC Cable Networks Group to run the Big Ten Network, which kicks off in August, and will carry all of the conference’s college sports events, led by football and basketball, that are not tied up in long-term contracts with ABC, CBS and ESPN.

The only carriage deal signed so far for the proposed network is with DirecTV, a sibling of Fox Sports, and 49% owner of the Big Ten Network. (The Big Ten Conference owns the other 51%.)

One of Silverman’s first tasks will be to find experienced affiliate-sales executives to clear the network on cable systems, starting in the eight states where the 11 Big Ten teams play their games: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The network will try to secure analog clearance within these markets, making it available to all subscribers. In other areas of the country, the network may have to settle for digital basic, or digital sports tiers, which will put the net in only a fraction of these cable systems’ homes.

Silverman became senior VP and GM of ABC Cable Networks in April 2004 after serving as GM of the ABC Family Channel, where he focused on ad sales, business affairs and finance.

Silverman began his media career with the Walt Disney Co., where he held a variety of jobs, including VP of planning and development for ABC Inc. and VP of finance and planning for the Disney Studios.

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