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.
“The Fifth Quarter” runs every other Wednesday. If you would like to comment on this story, visit DailyTrojan.com or email Alex at email@example.com.