BERKELEY, Calif. – The Pac-12 Network has its headquarters in San Francisco and carried the games of both Bay Area teams among its initial slate of five college football broadcasts. But for customers of DirecTV, it didn’t matter if they lived in SoMa next to the conference’s new studios or across the country next to the MoMA in New York City, they were out of luck trying to watch the season-openers for California and Stanford.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who attended the Bears’ 31-24 loss to Nevada on Saturday, continued to express optimism that a deal with DirecTV can be finalized, even after the conference issued a blistering public letter to fans encouraging them to switch providers last week.
“When you start a TV network, you anticipate the possibility you are not going to have every distributor day one and I don’t think that ever happens,” Scott said. “We studied the Big Ten Network, the Mountain West, all these other networks and realized there was a bit of a process.
“From a historical context, launching a network with 30 different contracts with cable providers is a terrific start.”
Scott said the Pac-12 Network is priced favorably with the Big Ten Network, which DirecTV does carry, and also compared the ongoing negotiations to the satellite provider’s recent dispute with Viacom that led to MTV, Nickelodeon, and other channels being dropped briefly.
“We know the fair value,” Scott said. “We’ve got offers they can say yes to, and could switch it on in 48 hours if they want to. The ball is really in their court.
“What they said the other day publicly was they’re not sure Pac-12 fans really need to have what is on the network if they can get some games on ESPN, on Fox. They sounded a little out of touch to us.”
The Pac-12 had taken its public relations push to Twitter in recent weeks, led most vocally by Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour. Last week Barbour dropped DirecTV in favor of Comcast, even recording the switch in a YouTube video.
But while the forward-thinking Scott applauded the move, even deals already in place don’t guaranteed access to the Pac-12 Network. Only cable providers within the footprint of the six states that make up the conference are carrying the channel on its basic platform. Elsewhere it has been placed on an up-charge sports tier.
“We did have to offer some flexibility to roll it out over time because there is some expense and other technical challenges,” Scott said. “But they understand our objective is to take it everywhere. We know we have got fans all over the country that we are hearing from that want to see it.”
That push for national exposure is at the heart of the new television contract that went into effect this season. ESPN and Fox each will broadcast 22 Pac-12 games, including the conference championship game, putting an end to regional telecasts. Combined with the Pac-12 Network, it ensures every game will be available on television going forward.
“Frankly this (Nevada-Cal) game a year ago would have been on Comcast Bay Area and that’s it,” Scott said. “You wouldn’t have seen it, even throughout the rest of the footprint.”
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.