Pac-12 Networks launch enhances fan experience

The Pac-12 launched a new group of television networks on Aug. 15, the first of its kind — a conglomerate of channels the college conference owns completely.

The Pac-12 Networks bridge the gap between nationally televised and local games that might otherwise not be available for viewing.

Last year, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott toured the country, talking to sports fans and discussing their viewing experience as it pertained to the Pac-12. He found that many fans felt underserved by regular television coverage of their favorite conference. Not long after, the Pac-12 Networks were born.

Unlike the Big Ten, the only other college conference with a television network, the Pac-12 Networks utilize a national-regional split to produce even more content for each university. There are seven networks in all — one national and six local. Each local station — Pac-12 Los Angeles, Washington, Oregon, Bay Area, Arizona and Mountain — will focus on two universities in a particular region.

“All seven networks will have 350 of the same events,” said Pac-12 Enterprises president Gary Stevenson said. “On a local basis, there will be another 50 events from each school.”

Pac-12 Los Angeles will televise 350 national events along with an additional 100 games split evenly between USC and UCLA.

The Pac-12 also has a digital companion called Pac-12 Now, which promises to keep USC fans in the loop on a variety of devices as long as they are subscribed to a television provider broadcasting the Pac-12 Networks.

“At launch, we’ll have a TV Everywhere product called Pac-12 Now,” Stevenson said. “So if you’re an authenticated subscriber to Time Warner, you’ll be able to put in your authentication number, which is basically your subscription number, and get that same programming live on your PC or your iPad.”

The Pac-12 agreed to a broadcasting deal with carriers that make up roughly 40 percent of the U.S. television market, and conference officials hope to have deals in place with other carriers soon, most notably DirecTV. USC Auxillary Services said that USC cable services will have access to Pac-12 Los Angeles. They anticipate services will be up and running next week.

“We will have Pac-12 Networks in dorms as part of whatever the package is on campus,” Stevenson said.

As for what viewers can expect, the Pac-12 has loaded up on a wide variety of shows — pre- and post-game analysis, classic games and, of course, live events. USC’s first live football appearance on the Pac-12 Networks is set for Sept. 22, when the Trojans take on California at the Coliseum.

“We have 35 football games [in total] and three teams that will be ranked in the top 15 in the first four weeks of the season,” Stevenson said. “And those three teams alone — Stanford, Oregon and USC — will be on the network five times in the first four weeks. We’ll [also] have … over 135 men’s basketball games and another 600 or so Olympics sports.”

Stevenson is additionally proud of the Pac-12’s commitment to broadcasting an even number of men’s and women’s games.

“When we set out to do our programming grid of our 850 events, we had a matrix of things that we wanted to be considered. Nowhere in there was it [asked] if it’s a men’s sport or a women’s sport,” Stevenson said. “It ended up being 50/50 men’s and women’s sports, which was thrilling to us because it’s the 40th anniversary of Title IX, and there’s probably no further justification of the impact Title IX has had.”

On-air personalities, such as Rick Neuheisel, Yogi Roth and Bill Walton, and USC alumni Curtis Conway and Ronnie Lott, will take on big roles at the networks in calling and analyzing the action on the field and hardwood.

“Your on-air team has a lot to do with the look and feel of the network,” Stevenson said. “We have so many people on our team that really know and have experienced the Pac-12 brand. To have that kind of talent is something that we’re really excited about.”

Stevenson is aware of the hardships the Pac-12 Networks might face initially. Without funding from outside companies (the Big Ten Network is partially owned by Fox), achieving profitability could take time. But there are immediate benefits to USC and other schools in the conference.

“Imagine what being on 24/7 on seven networks and a digital network [can do],” Stevenson said. “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.”

And for that reason, along with many others, Pac-12 executives are confident that they’ve created something unparalleled in the world of sports.

“Nobody has ever done anything quite like this — in college sports or, quite frankly, professional sports,” Stevenson said.