Larry Scott Expects Pac-12 Network To Launch Next August; Kudos Roll In For TV Deal
Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said that he "expects a Pac-12 network and … digital network to be up and running" by August '12, and that the conference "will save premium content for its conference network," according to Diane Pucin of the L.A. TIMES. Under the new TV deal formally announced today, ESPN and Fox will have the rights to 44 football games a season, "with a Pac-12 network getting the rights to 36 football games." Scott: "The (Pac-12) network will have very high-quality games, with either the first, second or third selections in different weeks. The conference network will have the best game of the week a couple of weeks each season." Scott added that the conference "will keep total ownership of its network." Pucin reports there is a "clause in the new Pac-12 contract that restricts the scheduling of nonconference football games to the first three weeks of the season without a waiver carrying the approval of all 12 of the league's athletic directors." However, Scott said that the USC-Notre Dame and Stanford-Notre Dame games are "exempt from the mandate." Sources said that the new TV deal "will put an end to the traditional Thursday-Saturday basketball scheduling." ESPN "will be showing games Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday" (L.A. TIMES, 5/4).
WHO GETS WHAT: DAILY VARIETY's Jon Weisman reported ESPN will have "four Thursday night and four Friday night" football games per year, "in addition to Saturday night broadcasts in coordination with ABC." Meanwhile, the Pac-12 network "will have to find its way onto existing cable and satellite distributors, but given the popularity of its older sibling, the Big 10 Network, there should be plenty of interest." Weisman wrote the Pac-10 retaining ownership of the net -- "in contrast to the Big 10 Network, partly owned by Fox, and ESPN's new Longhorn Network centered on" the Univ. of Texas -- is indicative of how "favorable the environment has become for regional college sports" (VARIETY.com, 5/3). In Arizona, Bruce Pascoe reports FSN "will likely be carried fully" for Pac-12 football and basketball games. There "will not be regional broadcasts and it is very likely that all FSN affiliates will be required to carry Pac-12 games." Under the current deal, FSN affiliates' "regional contracts took precedent over national Pac-10 games" (AZSTARNET.com, 5/3). ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan wrote the deal "seems to translate roughly to 'more basketball on TV,' and 'more basketball on TV,' regardless of the network, is always a good thing" (ESPN.com, 5/3).
FINANCIAL WINDFALL: In Salt Lake City, Lewis & Wodraska write the reported 12-year, $3B deal has "stunned even industry analysts who are accustomed to the multimillion-dollar world of sports broadcasting." The SEC reportedly earned $205M from TV rights last year, while the Big Ten earned $220M, and Navigate Marketing President A.J. Maestas said of the Pac-10, "They're going from worst to first. It's going to be a couple years before we understand how big this is after the league network is formed and the distribution is finalized, but comparing apples to apples, this is better than even what the Big Ten got, which was by far the best" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/4). Maestas added, "They hit the ceiling with what they could have achieved. If there was a report card, they'd get an A+" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/4). CNBC.com's Darren Rovell wrote sports are the "best bet on the entire television landscape." Rovell: "People get sick of sitcoms, reality shows and soap operas, but fans don't lose interest in a sport. That's why networks don't have any problem signing deals that last as long as they do despite the fact that they have no idea what the economic or technological landscape is going to look like" (CNBC.com, 5/3).
GREAT SCOTT! In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce writes, "Larry Scott gets an 'A' for the TV contract he just wrangled. 'A' as in astonishing, amazing, astounding and awe-inspiring" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/4). In S.F., Tom FitzGerald writes the deal is a "spectacular ace for Scott" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/4). In Seattle, Bud Withers writes, "Whatever the adjective is between stunning and staggering, that's the one" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/4). In S.F., Ron Kroichick writes Scott "obviously deserves credit for striking it big when he had the chance" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/4). ESPN.com's Ted Miller: "A big win for Scott and a big win for the conference, with perhaps even more revenue to come" (ESPN.com, 5/3). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Eisenberg wrote the TV deal is the "most important element in Scott's plan to reshape a league that had fallen behind the times under previous commissioner Tom Hansen" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/3). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Scott "had been planning for this event since Day 1 of assuming control" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/4). Bloomberg TV's Michele Steele said the deal is a "big coup for Larry Scott ... who was brought in really for this purpose" ("In The Loop," Bloomberg TV, 5/4). CSNBayArea.com's Ann Killion: "It's exciting and it's really good for all the schools" ("Chronice Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 5/3).
FOX COULD NOT LOSE MORE RIGHTS: Sports Byline USA's Roxy Bernstein said Fox "could not afford to lose" its deal with the Pac-10 after "what's gone on in Southern California." Bernstein: "They lost the Lakers contract, the network could have really folded. If they didn't have Pac-10 programming, what were they going to do? They could not afford to lose it, Larry Scott knew it, and he maximized the deal" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 5/3).