The Gophers men’s basketball team is preparing for its most anticipated season in more than a decade.
A nationally ranked recruiting class will join a squad that made its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005 last March.
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For the third consecutive year, the Big Ten Network will stream some of the team’s games via bigtennetwork.com this season.
But unlike last year, it won’t be free.
The Gophers’ first two exhibitions — against Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 5 and Minnesota State Moorhead on Nov. 9 — and their first two regular-season games — against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 13 and Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 16 — will be streamed live on the network’s website, where fans can watch the games for $2.99 each, the network announced recently.
Those four games will not air on any TV station.
The Gophers’ Dec. 5 game against Brown also will be a part of the website’s pay-per-view package.
Some of the streamed broadcasts, which will be produced by students, will air tape-delayed on the Big Ten Network.
Gophers spokesman Garry Bowman anticipates a few complaints from fans but said the Big Ten Network’s plans to stream more games from other sports, such as volleyball and wrestling, gives them more exposure.
Bowman said the school doesn’t make any decisions related to live streaming fees.
Minnesota is one of six Big Ten schools equipped with one of the network’s production kits for live streaming.
“I understand that they’ve got to charge for it; they’ve made a huge investment in this,” Bowman said. “We all like to get stuff for free, but I understand where they’re coming from.”
He added: “I’m sure there will be (disappointment), but they are available. It’s a fairly nominal fee.”
The one-time fee entitles consumers to unlimited viewing of an individual game through the end of the season, said Elizabeth Conlisk, the Big Ten Network’s vice president of communications and university relations. She said the fee is a result of the network’s investment in better equipment that allows it to stream games with high-definition quality.
“Other conferences, I believe, have had streaming packages for several years now,” she said. “And we made a significant investment in our streaming capability.”
Some women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, men’s hockey, baseball, softball and wrestling contests will air via live streaming this season. Each event, more than 200 total, will cost $2.99.
Conlisk said Big Ten Network officials decided against creating a package that would give consumers access to every streamed event for a particular school, but she said that’s something that likely will be offered in the future.
“We think that down the road we will offer a school pass, but right now, we just didn’t have the capability to do that effectively,” she said.