AT&T Drops Pac-12 Nets From U-Verse, Dealing Blow To Conference
AT&T will "no longer carry the Pac-12 Networks on its U-verse service, effective Sunday," according to Jon Wilner of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. Neither Big Ten Network nor SEC Network has "ever lost a major distribution partner." The Pac-12's contract with AT&T, which "included U-verse and a wireless sponsorship deal ... expired this summer." Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shuken in July said that he was "working on an extension of the deal." But that extension, which "remained in place through the football season, has expired." Wilner notes his "best guess is that approximately 400,000-500,000 subs watch the Pac-12 Networks on U-verse." With U-verse gone, so is "any chance of a DirecTV deal with it, at least for the near future," as well as the "wireless sponsorship component." The Pac-12 going forward will "partner with wireless companies that are also fully committed to distribution." But losing AT&T "cannot be framed as anything other than a blow to the conference" and Commissioner Larry Scott, as Pac-12 Nets was "his brainchild" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 11/28).ESPN's Arash Markazi tweeted, "The Pac-12 Network is going in the wrong direction with providers." Awful Announcing: "Back when AT&T bought DirecTV, some thought that might lead to DirecTV finally adding the Pac-12 Networks. ... Now it's gone the other way" (TWITTER.com, 11/27).
POSITIONED AS AN OUTLIER: In Portland, John Canzano in a front-page piece takes a deep dive into the struggles faced by Scott and the Pac-12 relating to the college football arms race, and notes the Pac-12 is the "only conference that owns and runs its own television network." Of the 112 full-time employees who work for the Pac-12, "only 42 work for the conference itself." The rest are "employed by the network." The SEC and Big Ten "sell their media rights but aren't in the media-production business." The Pac-12 offices "include 90,000 of square footage dedicated to studios, production bays, control rooms and a host of directors, technicians, equipment and talent." The "cost of maintaining its own television network is substantial," and the "failure to get distribution of the Pac-12 Network on DirecTV is a maddening issue for fans and coaches." Sources said that the ratings, "guarded carefully by the conference, are a disappointment." There is also "private grumbling from ADs and coaches about less money and exposure compared to the other Power 5 conferences, but few will speak publicly." The Pac-12's choice to "run its own network and lock into early distribution agreements has left the conference on the sidelines as others negotiated lucrative television rights deals and digital rights fees" (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/28).