If reaching a master agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative is akin to putting in a game plan, then the Pac-12 Networks' affiliate team now has to go out and execute it.
Last Friday, Pac-12 Enterprises, the content and multiplatform media company for the collegiate conference that bears its name, scored its first major affiliate agreement since the Pac-12 Networks were announced last July. Under the master agreement, financial terms of which were not disclosed, NCTC's 900 cable operators and other providers can opt into the group's deal for the seven networks, the national feed, plus regionals in Northern California (Stanford and Cal); Southern California (USC and UCLA); Oregon (Oregon State and Oregon); Washington (Washington State and Washington); Arizona (Arizona State and Arizona); and Mountain (Utah and Colorado) areas. They are scheduled to debut on August 15.
Pac-12 Enterprises president Gary Stevenson is confident that a number of NCTC members will join charter affiliates Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox and Bright House Networks in launching the channels. Those four large MSOs have committed to placing Pac-12 Enterprises in some 40 million homes, coming out of the gate.
"So many [co-op] many members have expressed interest over the past three or four months," said Stevenson. "I like our chances of announcing deals with NCTC members [this week]."
An NCTC spokesman last week indicated that upon informing members about negotiations with the Pac-12, many responders asked "How soon? "
Stevenson said that a number of NCTC members match up well with the conference's geography. "There is rabid interest in the schools' home DMAs. There is rabid interest in the states where our universities are located," he noted. "And outside those areas, the interest may not be as great, but you'd be surprised by the number of Stanford, Cal, Oregon and USC fans and alumni in the [NCTC] markets."
He also pointed to the Pac-12 Networks' expansive commitment to TV Everywhere at launch as holding appeal to NCTC members.
"That's a big advantage to us, that NCTC is aligned with these platforms," said Stevenson, referring to the co-op's ties to Watch TV Everywher platform developed by Ohio-based Massillon Cable TV and Clearleap's forthcoming ClearPlay Authentication system.
Stevenson would not discuss rate cards, but sources indicate that Pac-12 Networks is seeking a monthly license fee of between 90 cents and $1 within conference markets, and as much as 50 cents in other areas.
Stevenson said senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Art Marquez and his team are engaged in distribution discussions throughout the industry. He responded, " I do," when asked if Pac-12 Networks will have carriage contracts beyond the quartet of charter affiliates and NCTC members before the channels kick off next month.
"But I only have 50 percent of the vote," he joked. "Seriously, all of the potential affiliates recognize the value of the content we're offering. Sports is an event-driven business and Pac-12 Networks will present over 850 live events" during the 2012-13 academic year.
Included in that total are 35 football games, with all of the conference's dozen schools having a contest showcased over the season's first four weeks. Stevenson pointed to Cal-USC game in the fourth week as being potentially very noteworthy. "USC could be first or second in the country at that stage and will feature Heisman Trophy candidate [Trojans quarterback] Matt Barkley," said Stevenson. "Universally, there has been a positive reaction to our content."