Here’s why the Pac-12 Network will succeed while the Mountain West Network failed: Lots of people care a lot about the Pac-12. Not so many cared about the Mountain West Conference.
The only athletic director to go through the launch of both channels, Utah’s Chris Hill, didn’t put it that bluntly. He went out of his way to avoid disparaging his former conference partners.
“I was in that league forever with good friends,” he said. “But the passion wasn’t there in all the markets.”
Like San Diego, where 200,000 Time-Warner subscribers never got The Mtn.
In Utah, outraged Utah and BYU fans would have marched with pitchforks and torches. In San Diego, they went to the beach.
That’s not going to be a problem with Pac-12 fans.
“The passion is huge for the schools in this league,” Hill said. “It’s a different situation.”
Not all Utah fans are convinced, however. “Why would anyone think that the Pac-12 Network is going to be different than the Mountain West Sports Network?” wrote one.
Why? Because they’re only remotely the same. The Mtn. launched in a few hundred thousand homes and peaked at about 12 million. The Pac-12 Network will launch in 40 million or more on Aug. 15.
And the Pac-12 will work out agreements that will put the main channel and one or more of the six regionals in millions more homes.
“If it was bad last time, it will be worse this time,” the reader wrote.
No, it won’t. The Pac-12 is operating from a position of strength. Viewers will demand games featuring USC, Oregon, Stanford and, yes, Utah. Not many viewers ever demanded Colorado State, Wyoming or New Mexico.
It’s true the Pac-12 has no agreements with Dish, DirecTV or many smaller cable companies. You’ve heard this before, but the best thing you can do right now is call your cable/satellite provider and demand the Pac-12 Network.
There also seems to be a major misunderstanding about Comcast’s involvement. It co-owned and managed The Mtn., which may have hindered distribution.
Comcast has no ownership interest in the Pac-12 Network. Zero. The league owns it. Comcast will simply carry the channel.
I’m not saying every home will one day have the Pac-12 Network. Five years after it launched, the Big Ten Network is available in 73 million homes (out of 114.7 million total), and the Pac-12 probably isn’t going to do better.
I’m not saying wider distribution will happen overnight. BTN launched in 17 million homes and built from there.
And I’m not saying it will be cheap. You’re going to have to subscribe to cable (or, hopefully, satellite). Depending on where you live (outside of Utah), you may have to pay for a more expensive programming tier.
But the days of watching Utah games on Channel 2 or Channel 14 are long gone. And they’re not coming back.
The Pac-12 Network is going to work. If you’re worried about this fall and you don’t have Comcast, you have three options.
• Call your provider and cross your fingers.
• Find a friend who does have Comcast.
• Make the switch to Comcast.
Utahns have a right to be wary after The Mtn. debacle. But the Pac-12 is not the Mountain West Conference.
This time, it’s going to work.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.