Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott held a news conference this morning at the league meetings, and clarified a number of points about the new media deal, which will take affect in the fall of 2012, and confirmed that there will be a Pac-12 owned Pac-12 network at that time.
Football is king, and most will be most interested in details there.
In the 2012 season, Scott detailed that there will be 44 games on ESPN & "Fox Group", with 36 on the Pac-12 network.
Once the actual schedule is set, there will be what Scott described as a "draft", where the partners will select which games go to which carrier. Scott also clarified that "Fox Group" means Fox's current over the air channels (nationwide), and FX. There will be NO FOOTBALL on the FSN group of regional channels, or the FSN Partners, including ROOT (Northwest and Denver area, among others) and the Comcast regional channels (Bay Area, Prime Ticket).
A couple of weeks, the Pac-12 Network will even have the first pick, so it will not be where only the "last place" games are relegated to,
Scott also noted that there will be 8 games on Thursday of Friday night. Which ones, and at which locations, is yet to be determined, and how factors such as the existing campus ban on games on Thursday night at Oregon St. while classes are in session, or the issues with traffic in Seattle, may or may not play into the matter is unknown.
Starting in 2012, the Pac-12 football Championship Game will be played on Friday night, timed for east coast prime time, probably 8 PM, meaning a 5 PM start at the coastal 8 locations, or 6 PM should the game be at one of the Arizona schools, or either of the new comers, Utah and Colorado.
This will move the game from the relative glut of games on "Championship Saturday", intended to attract greater attention, but will run head-long into Friday night after work traffic.
Moving on to basketball, ESPN and the "Fox Group" will carry 68 basketball games. FSN and hopefully partner resellers will carry some games. Scott did address one concern, specifically what if ROOT doesn't continue to have their current relationship with FSN, noting that if that should eventuate, then games involving northwest teams (for example) would not be among those selected for the regional networks. Which could, for example, mean Arizona and ASU games might be on FSAZ, while Washington and Oregon school games might not be on ROOT.
The Pac-12 men's tournament will be carried by ESPN in 2013, and it will then alternate with Fox.
The issue of basketball scheduling has been a major concern, but Scott said the Conference was more successful than he anticipated in putting that part of the deal, and that with only a few exceptions (which already exist), game would be on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Scott indicated that the number of women's basketball games aired would be substantially increased, though not all would be televised. All conference men's basketball games will be broadcasted in some form, though.
Another major issue is the sighting of the Pac-12 basketball tournament, which has been in Los Angeles for a number of years. Scott said that the Conference will be soliciting proposals from cities and other potential promoters for the tournament, in order to better determine the options for the tournament. A rotation among several cities, or sighting the tournament in a single city for several years, are both possibilities. Presumably, whether to link or uncouple the men's and women's tournaments will also be determined based on the response to the Request For Proposals.
Scott also explained that the "Pac 12 Network" will have two components, one being a cable / satellite television channel, and the other being a digital network, similar to ESPN3, for streaming to computers and smart phones.
Carriage for both are major issues, and Scott admitted he could not guarantee 100% availability in the Pac-12 footprint by the fall of 2012 at this time. He did indicate there should be an announcement within 60 days with more details about how that is being handled.
The hodgepodge of cable carriers and the economic politics involving the satellite carriers make the television channel(s?) penetration and distribution a complex issue. (It's also worth recalling that much of Beaver Nation did not have access to the Sun Bowl, and much did not get the Rose Bowl a couple of years ago, despite those games being on primary carriers, CBS and ABC).
And while Scott's pursuit of the digital marketplace is to be applauded, that too is no small detail. Scott did not address how the model of how their digital streams would be distributed, but count on having to pay for access.
Scott said “We are big believers in the subscription model. Our channel will be available to subscribers."
The concerns are format options, for areas where infrastructure build out limits options (yes, there are places in the Pac-12 footprint where medium speed DSL is still the best delivery possible, and yes, there are places in towns where your smart phone will NOT get service), and also arrangements with ISP providers. For example, there are places where ESPN3 is not available because the limited number of ISPs that ESPN will allow you to buy their service from doesn't include any that serve the area you live or work in.
So beware of the claim that all football and men's basketball games will be available.
Realistically though, Scott is correct about the broadcast muscle that the Pac-12 wields, and that it will carry tremendous momentum in dealing with carriers. Scott and his lawyers are smart people, and they will no doubt take note of the mis-steps that have befallen others.
Scott's comment that the Pac-12 Network will be "distributor friendly" is a good sign that he understands the significance of the problem.
Scott has capitalized on the unique opportunity that the Pac-12 has, being the only major Conference currently marketing their inventory, and his track record indicates that even if there are some bumps in the road, in the long haul, the product, as well as the dollars, will be unprecedented.
It won't hurt to start reminding your satellite or cable provider, as well as your ISP, that you REALLY want the Pac-12 Network the day it comes on line.