The Pacific-12 Conference gains a little more credibility as a power conference today.
At 6 p.m., the final piece of new conference commissioner Larry Scott’s grand media plan will be realized when the Pac-12 Networks officially launches and goes on the air.
“The launching of the linear television networks and digital networks means more live sports, more Pac-12 championships and connecting fans with their favorite teams,” Scott said at the Pac-12 football media day July 24.
That had not been the case for far too many years. Under previous commissioner Tom Hansen, the then-Pac-10 was mired in an awful TV deal with Fox Sports Network. It generated less than $60 million in revenues last season, in comparison to the Big Ten and Southeastern conference, which generated more than $200 million. The regional-based Fox networks’ scheduling decisions often left football and men’s basketball games – particularly those not involving the two Los Angeles-based teams – untelevised, which didn’t sit well with fans.
That all changed when Scott negotiated the most lucrative television contract in college sports history – a 12-year, $3 billion deal with FOX and ESPN.
The Pac-12 joins the SEC and Big Ten with their own networks. But unlike the Big Ten Network, which is co-owned by Fox, and the SEC Network, which is owned by ESPN, the Pac-12 Networks are owned by the conference – meaning every dollar generated stays in-conference. The money from the billion-dollar TV deal helped pay for the network’s start up, construction of its studios and headquarters in the Bay Area.
The main Pac-12 Network and its six regional networks ensure that every conference football game and men’s basketball game will be televised nationally. The network plans to air roughly 850 sporting events a year, including baseball, volleyball, women’s basketball, soccer and the Olympic sports.
“This is going to be a major movement, a major change in terms of the national exposure and recognition our conference gets,” Scott said.
In addition to the TV networks, the Pac-12 will be at the forefront of digital products with its “TV Everywhere,” which offers live streaming, replays and programming to subscribers to view on their computers, iPads, internet television, gaming device and smartphone.
“The idea is Pac-12 content, anywhere, anytime, by any device,” Scott said.
Of course, it’s far from a perfect launch for Pac-12 Networks president Gary Stevenson.
As of Tuesday, there still are no working agreements with major satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network, but Stevenson and his staff are in active negotiations and “working day and night” with both carriers – along with Verizon’s and AT&T’s television networks – to get agreements finished.
“There’s nothing I’ve heard that’s discouraging from any of them,” Stevenson said via conference call. “We only have 50 percent of the vote. I don’t expect all of them will be on at launch. I do believe that as we talk about our content over time, our fans that are customers of those distributors will get what they want.’’
In terms of importance, the DirecTV agreement is probably the most vital. The network has nearly 20 million subscribers as of June 30. It also is the sole provider of NFL Sunday Ticket, provides all pay-per-view-based sports packages, and carries regional Fox Sports and Comcast sports networks and the Big Ten Network.
Most involved believe an agreement with DirecTV will be in place before the network airs its first football game on Aug. 30, when Utah hosts Northern Colorado.
“We’re perfectionists, so we would like to have every distributor out there and that’s our goal,’’ Stevenson said. “If you take a look at our distribution launch compared with just about every other cable company that launched in history, that distribution with three of the five most powerful operators in the country is terrific.’’
Locally, viewers with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House cable systems will receive the network.
The first program to air on the Pac-12 network will be a one-hour in-studio broadcast featuring host Summer Sanders and former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel. It will feature a 30-minute segment on Pac-12 quarterbacks taken with the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL draft, including Andrew Luck and Drew Bledsoe.
There will also be a replay of last year’s Pac-12 football title game between Oregon and UCLA.
Other programming will include half-hour football previews for each team. The show “Pac-12 Encore” will replay the top 10 games from 2011 season.
On Tuesday nights, there will be a show called “Pac-12 Playbook,” which is a conference-wide coaches show. The network also will replay each week’s Pac-12 football games aired on its network and ESPN and FOX in one-hour formats.
The first live broadcast will be a soccer game between Santa Clara and Stanford from Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday.
“Our mission is to deliver content to fans across the country on any screen when they want it,” Stevenson email@example.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish