SBD/July 29, 2011/Media

Pac-12 Officials Worked Hard To Have Network Deals In Place For Media Days

Scott discussed networks shortly after being told deal had been reached
The Pac-12 Wednesday announced the creation of a national and several regional networks, and while it was “expected to take the conference another month or two to hammer out the details,” Commissioner Larry Scott “wanted to be aggressive and set an early deadline in order to build off the momentum” from this week's conference media days, according to Bryan Fischer of CBSSPORTS.com. Pac-12 officials "were in New York nearly a week before the announcement ironing out in the details," and negotiations "were almost literally around the clock, wrapping up just past 4 a.m. Wednesday." Scott said, "We had a virtual handshake over the phone at 10 a.m. That's when I knew we had a done deal. But I only got confirmation from my general counsel right before the press event at 5 p.m. that it was signed." Scott on Tuesday was "aware of how the negotiations were going when he took the stage at the Fox Lot in Los Angeles for Pac-12 Media Day, but kept things under wraps in case things happened to unravel." Fisher noted Time Warner Cable Exec VP & Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer was one of the "key people who helped the process move along from beginning to end." Financial terms of the deal were not announced, but the networks are "expected to make money in the short term and the conference's unique position of wholly owning everything have positioned them to be rewarded well into the future." Additionally, the fact that Scott "helped bring together two major competitors and four cable operators" as distributors of the regional networks is "one reason why other companies looking to partner with the Pac-12 are eager to buy into the master plan." The "genesis" of the networks "started shortly after Scott was hired to replace retiring commissioner Tom Hansen." Fisher: "It was an idea that evolved slowly during the months and years after he accepted the job of taking a largely stale conference into the 21st century." Scott said, "I didn't come into the job with the mandate to form a TV network. It really evolved as a strategy over my first three months going on a listening tour and assessing the conference" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/28).

FUTURE OF POSSIBILITIES
: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes, "How to successfully pull off this yet-to-be defined multi-platform approach ... is always up for discussion," since the "fluid media landscape means that making concrete decisions today can be nearly outdated by the next season." ESPN or Fox is "just as much in play as a Google or an Apple." Scott: "The more I've looked into this, the more I realize that no one knows what the world will look like five years from now. That's one of the motivations for having our own network, frankly. It's so that we're able to evolve with technology and distribution. And being here based on the West Coast, and having the leading institutions that supply the leaders of these cutting-edge technology and media companies out here, I see it as part of our DNA." ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said of Scott, "I hope the fans appreciate the work he has been putting in. I rarely compliment a conference commissioner, but he's someone who is a breath of fresh air. ... Whatever he and his group researched after all their due diligence, I assume it's the way to it" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/29).

FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD
: SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote, "'Unique' and 'one-of-a-kind' have been recurring mantras the past two years as Scott, a rare outsider among mostly lifelong college administrators, has repeatedly bucked convention in overhauling the once-sleepy conference." Scott was hired in '09 to "modernize the league and negotiate better television contracts." Mandel: "Just over two years later, the Pac-10 is the Pac-12, ESPN and Fox are teaming up to provide the richest fees for any conference in the country, and, starting next season, [the conference]...will be able to televise all football and men's basketball games." Scott is "not the first commissioner to land a lucrative television deal, but he's the first to convince two purported competitors (ESPN and Fox) to team up and split inventory." Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany "was the unquestioned trendsetter in launching the Big Ten Network." But Scott's "unique arrangement with the three most dominant cable companies in the Pac-12 markets (Cox, Comcast and Time Warner) as well as a fourth, Brighthouse, is that the network(s) won't face the same distribution battles the BTN, The Mtn and now Longhorn Network have endured." Scott: "The game-changer here is we got a conference network, but essentially, each of our schools -- with their rival school in their state or market -- has their own network too. It's kind of the best of both worlds." Mandel wrote Scott's "nonconformist, outsider's mentality happens to be exactly what college sports could desperately use right now" (SI.com, 7/28).
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