The seemingly multitudious slate of night games in the Pac-12 will be reduced this fall. At least a little. Maybe by as many as 4.
The current 12 year long broadcast deals with ESPN and FOX have been in place for 3 years, and though they were worth $3 billion, they were also the direct cause of the drastic increase in night games that have frustrated not only Beaver fans, but at some point or another, every other fan base in the conference.
The contracts were also the cause of some of the morning kickoffs, with the protected broadcast windows the major broadcast networks got included in the deals to protect their viewership of their games, Pac-12 or not, by fans of Pac-12 teams, who are inclined to watch their team, or in many cases, another conference game, over what ESPN or FOX are showing, and more importantly trying to maximize ad sales and carriage numbers, for.
That window is nothing new; remember the ABC protected 12:30 window, which was the instigator of the increase in 3:30/4:00 games a few years back.
But in response to not only the constant grumbling coming from customers from Pullman and Seattle to Tucson and Salt Lake City, but also the increasing grumbling by university Athletic Directors, and later administrators, who have watched ticket sales, and therefore concessions, parking revenue, and their own ad sales, all plummet, taking a significant amount of the glow off that $3B payoff, the Pac-12 Conference has negotiated a modification that will allow up to 4 games on the Pac-12 Network to kickoff at either 2:30 PM or 6 PM PT and overlap with an ESPN or FOX broadcast window.
That could be especially good news for Beaver fans, given that Oregon State was relegated to the Pac-12 Network in 8 of their 12 games last season (and likely will be even more often this season), and will play 11 of 12 on Saturday's this year. And though the Beavers only played 3 games that started after 5 PM last year, Oregon State started at 7 PM or later 7 times in 2014. Or, all 4 games slotted more fan-favorably could be games that would wind up in the middle of the night in Pullman or the middle of the afternoon in Tucson otherwise.
Realistically, it's probably going to be used to try to get Stanford, and Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey, some small boost in visibility, after the Cardinal and McCaffrey played a majority of their games at night last year. And 6 PM isn't that much of an improvement over 7 PM. 4 games at earlier times, including some with only a 1-1 1/2 hour move up isn't something fans will necessarily even notice, given that last year, there were 33 Pac-12 home games that started at or after 7 PM locally, but only 9 were on some combination of Pac-12 Network channels. This won't do anything about ESPN's needs to fill Saturday night game slots.
But at least its something, in the land of #Pac-12[Long]AfterDark.
The conference did not disclose what, if anything, they had to do/give up/pay in exchange for the modification. Perhaps the distribution of the Pac-12 Network is so bad the major networks do not see the overlap as producing any significant loss of their audience.
We should know more within the next month, as the first batch of kickoff times and television assignments are expected to be announced sometime in early June.
There's nothing on the horizon that suggests any resolution to the non-distribution of the Pac-12 Network on DirecTV, or improvement in the distribution model on Comcast, the most notable (of the many) failings of all of those contract negotiations Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott pretty much botched, but it is the most significant modification so far, and the first one that's really a positive, and perhaps will prove to be a start in the right direction.