Issues with Pac-12 Network loom large

When the Pac-12 Networks launched on Aug. 15, there were plenty of kinks still to be worked out. Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson essentially admitted as much in an interview with the Daily Trojan, but was also clear about the possibilities for the schools in the conference.

“Imagine what being on 24/7 on seven networks and a digital network [can do],” Stevenson said at the time. “The opportunities for students, the opportunities to promote the traditions and culture, the opportunities for coaches to recruit — there are just so many non-financial benefits.”

Quotes about the non-financial benefits of a project that was created almost exclusively to turn a profit should obviously be taken with a grain of salt.

But there was a genuine sense of sincerity in Stevenson’s pitch — he and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott were interested in creating an unparalleled fan experience while also trying something that had never been attempted before.

In other words, this was — and still is — a daunting project.

I say this because on Saturday, DirecTV subscribers were unable to view the USC- California football game, which the Trojans won 27-9. The contest was shown on the Pac-12 Networks, which have yet to come to an agreement with DirecTV.

In the days leading up to the game, columnists and bloggers across the West Coast weighed in on the matter, many of whom expressed outrage that the two sides couldn’t come to a deal in time.

And while I feel for those who couldn’t tune into USC’s victory, I still have trouble understanding the rationale behind getting so angry over any sporting event unless you’re a Packers fan this week.

Fingers are being pointed at the Pac-12 Networks, DirecTV and everyone in between. But I’m ready to chalk it up to normal business negotiations and move on, because the Pac-12 Networks still have plenty of potential to deliver an impressive product down the line. These things take time.

When the news of a stalled deal began gaining momentum last week, both the Pac-12 Networks and DirecTV came out firing against one another.

DirecTV responded to a letter by the conference by going on the offensive, arguing that the Pac-12 Networks were offered two separate compromises so customers could watch the game even without a deal in place. This is true — DirecTV did, in fact, offer a stand-alone channel option and a pay-per-view system.

The problem is, DirecTV’s offer was deceitful. It was a calculated PR move to put the pressure on the Pac-12 Networks, which hasn’t budged in its negotiations with the television provider. DirecTV can complain that the Pac-12 is forcing subscribers to pay extra for the new channel, but it’s certainly not the first time that’s happened.

One reporter — Jon Wilner from the San Jose Mercury News — helped to illustrate this hypocrisy. As he points out, viewers often times don’t have a choice in what channels the get, and a new Lakers channel set to launch this year will cost all DirecTV subscribers nearly $4 extra every month. It’s not a new concept or a travesty.

In the interest of fairness, I don’t know the ins and outs of the negotiations. But I do know these things take time, and agreements often come when least expected. The Pac-12 Networks got a deal done with DISH. They will come to an agreement with DirecTV.

This isn’t the Big 10 Network — this is a multi-media experiment between TV and Internet. The Pac-12 Networks promise to broadcast hundreds of sporting events that were previously inaccessible to many fans.

So while I, like many others, haven’t had a positive experience with the new conglomerate of channels yet, I’m willing to give Larry Scott and co. a chance to work through the growing pains.

A college sports channel can most certainly succeed, and I’d bank on the Pac-12 Networks to do so.



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2 replies
  1. Jax4usc
    Jax4usc says:

    Amen, Robert McKinnon! And while the Pac-12 is on its way, take along Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, Utah, and Coloorado. We were doing just fine until Scott got his Hahvahd nose under the tent.

    “The opportunities for students, the opportunities to promote the traditions and culture, the opportunities for coaches to recruit — there are just so many non-financial benefits,” says Gary Stevenson. Tradition? Tradition my ass! Where’s the tradition when we have to give up playing traditional West Coast rivals (this year Washington State and Oregon State) to accommodate mountain states schools, Utah and Colorado. We gave up watching USC’s longest-running bout with Cal Saturday so that the girls’ tennis promoter, Scott, can gather protesters to pressure a television provider to present his phony network.

    What was wrong with the outlets out here who faught over getting USC games on thier weekend lineups? What was wrong with ten teams playing a round-robin season that left no doubt who its champion was? What was broke that seemed Hahvahd Scott needed to fix?

    Try to figure out how ten university presidents, whom you might expect to be fairly bright, and ten university athletic directors, whom you might not expect to be terribly bright but, nontheless, savvy about sports, could let this self-promoter hornswaggle them.

    Fight On!


  2. Robert McKinnon
    Robert McKinnon says:

    The PAC 12 Networks need to go away and leave TV Broadcasting to the Expert BIG BOYS, ABC, ESPN, CBS,
    NBC, etc.
    They will probably end up just like Versus did, last year.
    We lost a game over that one too!

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