SBD/July 28, 2011/Media

Pac-12 To Create Six Regional Networks In Addition To National Channel

The Pac-12 Conference yesterday announced the creation of "not just one national channel, but six additional regionals as well that will focus on the largest areas represented" in the conference's new alignment, according to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Time Warner, Comcast, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks are the "first on board in distributing the regionals that will launch in August 2012 with more deals expected to be negotiated in the coming months." Southern California, Northern California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and the Rocky Mountain regions are the "areas of primary focus, carrying channels that are expected to be sold as basic cable." Meanwhile, a national net "could be created from DirecTV and the Dish Network on a sports tier that will charge the viewer extra per month." The networks will carry "about 850 conference events -- 350 nationally, and 500 on the local channels." Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, "We've had a national brand, but the tribal nature make college sports very local. So this is an attempt through the unique structure of our conference and the cable industry to super-serve fans in a hyper-local way." Hoffarth notes the Pac-12 has been using CAA to "pull its TV deals together" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/28). Scott said that the regional networks would be carried on "digital sports tiers that require extra fees in the rest of the country." He added that the conference "will keep ownership of the Pac-12 Network" (L.A. TIMES, 7/28).

PROGRAMMING PLANS: The AP noted "every football and men's basketball game will be televised nationally." Subscribers to the networks "will also be able to watch games on mobile devices" (AP, 7/27). Scott said that the networks "will allow the conference to deliver on its promise to make all football and men's basketball games available to fans." In Colorado, Kyle Ringo reports all conference championships "will eventually be televised and the creation of the networks likely will mean every spring football game around the conference will be televised." But "perhaps the greatest impact will be felt by Olympic sports student-athletes and coaches." The regional networks "will feature hyper-local content as well as programming available on the national network," though it is "unclear whether a Colorado fan living in Southern California will have access to the regional Mountain network." Scott "did not say what the startup costs of the networks would be." But multiple conference officials and ADs last month said that those costs "could be between" $60-80M (Boulder DAILY CAMERA, 7/28). Scott indicated that the conference is also "looking to bring even more content to broadband, but more work needs to be done there." MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted the Pac-12 is "looking to explore international distribution opportunities, and is contemplating, but has yet to push toward services catering to Latinos in the States" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 7/27). 

NOT ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: In San Jose, Jon Wilner noted the "most profitable course" for the Pac-12 in creating the nets "would have been to partner with one cable or satellite company and then strongarm others for the best deals" for subscription fees. Wilner: "Clearly, Scott did not take the most profitable course -- and he never intended to." Scott said there "wasn't as much pressure on the financial side" due to the conference's 12-year, $3B deal with ESPN and Fox. Scott: "The focus was what was best for the conference long-term." Still, Wilner wrote "by all appearances, Time Warner is driving the bus on this." Scott's two guests on the teleconference to announce the deal yesterday were TWC Chair & CEO Glenn Britt and Exec VP & Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer, "who was credited by Scott for devising the regional network plan" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 7/27). CABLEFAX DAILY writes TWC's "fingerprints are all over the deal," which "includes TV Everywhere rights" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/28). In Washington, John Blanchette writes Scott's "bold strokes -- expansion, which birthed a football championship game, and the earlier TV deal -- meant a windfall" for the conference. But Pac-12 schools "won't realize any immediate revenue from this brainchild," and instead are "betting on the come." Meanwhile, Blanchette noted the "Conference of Champions is morphing into the Conference of Co-Operatives" as a result of the deals with the various cable providers. But "until further notice, if you own a dish you're out of luck." Blanchette: "Seems like more than a trivial shortcoming" (Spokane SPOKESMAN-REVIEW, 7/28).

NO NEW REVENUES TO SCHOOLS: In a release trumpeting the launch of the Pac-12 Network, Univ. of California AD Sandy Barbour noted that the rights fee received from the network agreement "will be completely dedicated to the production, infrastructure and personnel requirements of operating the network." Although there is "potential for financial upside, the long-term financial benefit to Pac-12 institutions is unknown at this time and will be based on future distribution and advertising opportunities" Conference campuses in the short term "are not expected to receive any new revenue from the networks" (Univ. of California).
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