Updated: Pac-12 Conference To Kick Off Seven Networks Before 2012-13 School Year - Multichannel

Updated: Pac-12 Conference To Kick Off Seven Networks Before 2012-13 School Year

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The Pac-12 Conference is looking to roll a seven as it jumps into the network game before the start of the 2012-13 school year.
Working with Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, the Pac-12 Networks will offer a national network, plus six regional services.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced the formation of the networks at a press conference late Wednesday afternoon in New York, which was also attended by Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt and the MSO's chief content officer Melinda Witmer.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Mapping the conference's 12 universities, the six regional networks will be established 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.

The Pac-12 Networks' affiliate alignment aspires to expanded basic coverage for the regional services within the conference footprint and digital positioning for the national channel. The Pac-12 is also looking for carriage for all seven of the networks beyond that six-state footprint. The services are open to carriage by other cable operators, plus satellite and telco video providers.

The multi-network gambit follows the $3 billion, 12-year pact the Pac-12 signed with ESPN and Fox Sports for national rights in May.

At launch, the services will reach some 40 million households through the four cable operators, with the national service airing some 350 eventsand the regionals another 500.

The linear outlets aside, the Pac 12 Networks' playbook encompasses "TV everywhere" rights, permitting the networks to be viewed outside customers' homes on various digital devices, including smartphones and tablet computers.

The four cable operators will also utilize content aggregator In Demand to provide certain production and operations services to the Pac-12 Networks, which will continue to be wholly owned by the Pac-12 Conference.

Scott, who called the establishment of this model a "herculean effort" by the four cable companies, credited its formation as Witmer's "brainchild."

Under the new network set-up, all football games and every men's basketball contest that aren't carried by national telecast partners will be available through the seven services.

The national Pac-12 Network, according to Scott, will feature 35 football games, 100 men's hoop games, 40 women's basketball contests, a dozen spring football games and 150 Olympic sports events, including conference championship matchups. All of those events will be presented on the regional services as well, which will then show more of the local schools' Olympic sport competitions.

The conference is also looking to bring even more content to broadband, but more work needs to be done there, according to Scott, who spoke on a follow-up media call, before deferring to the MSOs, which are "leaders in technological innovations."

Noted Britt: "We are very excited about the multiple devices and broadband."

Similarly, the Pac-12 is looking to explore international distribution opportunities, and is contemplating, but has yet to push toward, services catering to Latinos in the States.

"We know the Pac-12 has a loyal Hispanic fan base," he said. "[Spanish-language versions of the networks are] something we have not gotten into yet. But we look forward to those discussions with our partners."

During the second media conference call, Britt, who noted the Pac-12 Networks will look "to affiliate with other cable companies, as well as satellite and phone" providers, said the strategy calls for the regional networks to be distributed more broadly, outside of the states comprising the conference footprint.

"We'll take each geography as it comes," Britt said.

Responding to a query about pricing, Britt said there were "no answers" yet, but "stay tuned." He added there would likely be "different costs in Los Angeles than in Ohio."

Those comments echoed the pricing schematic employed by BTN, which commands higher license fees and deeply penetrated position with video providers within the Big 10 Conference's nine-state footprint, and lower pricing and often sports tier distribution in other areas around the country.

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