SBD/June 28, 2011/Media

Pac-12 Considering Three Different Models For Conference's TV Network

Pac-12 could partner with Google or Apple for new conference network
Industry analysts indicated that the Pac-12 is "mulling three models" for the conference's TV network, according to Jon Wilner of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. One model is to "flip a channel," a scenario in which the conference "would partner with an existing programmer and flip, or re-brand, an existing channel." The "beauty of this model is that it eliminates distribution risk." However, the conference would "almost certainly have to give up an equity stake in the Pac-12 Network." Alternatively, the Pac-12 could "start from scratch" by partnering with an existing cable or satellite operator to "develop a new channel, with distribution baked into the partnership." Sources said that the Pac-12 "has had discussions with Comcast," and Wilner wrote that partnership "would make sense on several levels." The third option is for the Pac-12 to try the "non-subscription approach." Under this model the conference "would bypass the traditional, sub-based model and align with one of the tech giants." Instead of "teaming up with Time Warner or Comcast, the league would partner with Google or Apple," and 'instead of turning on your TV to watch the Pac-12 Network, you'd turn on your computer." The "drawback to this approach is that in the short term, the conference would give up the revenue that comes from subscription fees -- it would rely on advertising alone for revenue." But the Pac-12 "has financial flexibility" due to the $250M per year deal with Fox and ESPN. Wilner added, "The Google/Apple TV model is clearly a play on the future" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 6/27). ESPN.com's Ted Miller wrote such a "bold move toward the future would be very Larry Scott-ish." Miller: "If you think how quickly the technology is moving forward, well, betting on a cutting-edge model seems like a high-reward gamble with limited short-term risk" (ESPN.com, 6/27). SportsBusiness Journal this week profiles Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

ASKING FOR A PRETTY PENNY: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Ourand & Smith report the Univ. of Texas' Longhorn Network is “seeking its first distribution partner,” and sources said that ESPN “wants 40 cents per subscriber per month for placement on expanded basic cable tiers in Texas and various markets in three adjoining states: Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.” With a $0.40 rate, Longhorn Network “instantly would become one of the 30 or 40 highest priced cable channels.” ESPN is “far along in negotiations with several distributors, including two of the region’s biggest operators: Time Warner Cable and Verizon.” Sources expect ESPN “to be negotiating carriage deals with operators in Texas right up to the school’s” season-opener against Rice Univ. on Sept. 3rd. The net is scheduled to launch Aug. 26 (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/27 issue).

FREE TO AIR: BYU this year is going independent in football and joining the West Coast Conference for other sports, and in Utah, Jeff Call noted "approximately 140" BYU events and games will be broadcast by ESPN or BYUtv this year. BYU AD Tom Holmoe: "All of our home football and basketball games will be on TV, and we have the opportunity to do road games with BYUtv. We have an agreement with the West Coast Conference that we can do games on the road." BYUtv is "available in about 60 million homes around the nation." But Call noted a "big issue is how the school can monetize BYUtv, which is limited in the way it can produce revenue through advertising." Holmoe: "That's what we're doing right now. It's a modification. There are rules and regulations with what you can do with the contracts and agreements they have with the (cable and satellite) carriers" (DESERET NEWS, 6/27).

PRIME PLACEMENT: In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel noted the "eventual plan is for FX to stage a weekly nationally-televised" Big 12 football game at 8:00pm ET on Saturdays. Three FX games "have been slotted for television so far," and all three involve the Univ. of Oklahoma. The FX package is "part of the commitment by Fox Sports Net," whose deal with the Big 12 earlier this year "gives the conference confidence about its future." OU AD Joe Castiglione said of FX, "That's one of their (Fox's) strong cable networks. They have almost 100 million subscribers. That's a strong presence" (NEWSOK.com, 6/24).
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