The following is a guest post from Porter Olson.
The highly anticipated Pac-12 Network will officially launch nationwide on August 15, 2012. More than 40 million subscribers across the country will have unmatched access to the Pac-12 Conferences, including every football and men's basketball games.
Arguably one of the most popular and successful collegiate sports conferences in America, there's every reason in the world to be optimistic about the future of the Pac-12 Network, particularly in light of its 12-year deal with ESPN, which brings in a whopping $250 million per year in revenue to the conference. This amounts to roughly $20 million per year for each school in the conference.
The new network will be comprised of a total of seven channels. One channel will be the national presence, broadcasting the most important Pac-12 matchups each week to a national audience. The remaining six channels will operate on a regional basis, and include:
- Pac-12 Los Angeles (USC and UCLA)
- Pac-12 Arizona (Arizona State University and University of Arizona)
- Pac-12 Washington (Washington and Washington State)
- Pac-12 Oregon (Oregon and Oregon State)
- Pac-12 Bay Area (Stanford and California)
- Pac-12 Mountain (University of Colorado and the University of Utah)
Pac-12 fans across the country and around the world have every reason to be excited about the launch and the future of the Pac-12 Network, but success, as with any new business venture, is not a given.
Without high levels of demand for the product, no sports network can be successful. Fortunately, the Pac-12 Conference is one of the most recognizable names in college athletics, which definitely gives the new network a huge boost right out of the starting gate.
To date, however, Larry Scott, Pac-12 commissioner and member of the executive team at the Pac- 12 Network, has only managed to structure broadcasting deals with cable television carriers Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Bright House Networks. Absent from the list two of the larger cable television providers, Charter Communications and Cablevision. Also missing, and far more problematic than the absence of deals with Charter and Cablevision, are deals with the two largest satellite television broadcasters in the nation, DirecTV and DISH Network.
By comparison, the Big Ten Network (BTN), which by any standard has been successful, launched its product in August 2007 with only DirecTV and the AT&T U-verse as its major broadcasting partners. Within a week after launching, DISH Network came on board as a BTN broadcast partner. However, it took the better part of two years for the BTN to structure deals with other major carriers, including Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Brighthouse Networks, Cox Communications, and Cablevision. Today, BTN has more than 300 broadcasting partners.
The popularity of the Big Ten Conference (BTN) has certainly helped with its success, but what really made the difference were fans of the conference calling their local cable and satellite television providers and demanding they carry the new network. Realizing there was indeed a market for the new network, broadcasters structured deals with the BTN as quickly as they could.
Larry Scott has stated publicly he's "quietly optimistic" the Pac-12 will have broadcast deals structured with the two satellite premium home television providers by the fall. Still, even with the largest satellite provider, DirecTV and its 20 million domestic subscribers, there are no guarantees of success.
The MountainWest Network (also simply known as the Mountain) is an example of what can happen with a lack of broadcasting partners and a product that really isn't that interesting on a national level. Even with a deal in place with DirecTV, the Mountain could never gain any national traction. It was definitely a problem with their product.
The Mountain was the broadcasting arm of the Mountain West Conference, which was made up of teams that don't particularly have the national appeal of the Pac-12 teams. This made it very difficult for broadcasters to pony up to the bar. Needless to say, the Mountain failed after a mere five years.
There's no question the nationwide popularity of the Pac-12 Conference will play a huge role in its acceptance and future success. Unlike The Mountain, which had very little demand outside its conference cities, teams in the Pac-12 have national appeal with fan bases in virtually every television market in the country.
Fans of the Pac-12 Conference who find themselves without the network after its August launch should immediately call their local cable and satellite television providers and demand the new network. Don't assume just because they built it the broadcasters will come. Make the calls, voice your opinions, and get the Pac-12 Network as part of your regular lineup of sports channels. After all, this is truly something exciting. You will definitely want to be a part of it right from the beginning.