Pierce: Relax, Utahns — Pac-12 Network is not The Mtn.
Television • New channel looks pretty good on Day 1 — with room to improve.
Published: August 16, 2012 08:42AM
Updated: August 16, 2012 08:42AM
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Courtesy photo Mike Yam and Ashley Adamson on the set of the Pac-12 Networks' new studio.

The Pac-12 Networks launched Wednesday, and for Utahns it wasn’t déjà vu all over again.

Unlike the late, unlamented MountainWest Sports Network, this launch didn’t look like public-access TV. In 10 months, P12N president Gary Stevenson and his team have put together a cable network that looks and feels solid.

On Day 1, P12N looked better than The Mtn. looked on Day 2,100.

The P12N studios aren’t built out of cardboard. Neither are its studio hosts.

Oh, there was some silly jibber-jabber between Mike Yam and Ashley Adamson as the first studio show began. It was jaw-dropping when Summer Sanders, interviewing U.S. Olympic soccer gold medalist Kelley O’Hara about Friday’s final, asked, “Do you remember it?”

And nobody needed to hear Rick Neuheisel trying to sing USC’s fight song or see the group goofiness as the first studio show wrapped up.

But the shows, the graphics, the highlights packages, the football preview show all had the sheen of a professional production. The Mtn., this isn’t.

P12N viewers got an HD signal from the get-go, not years later. None of the schools on P12N is going to be leaving for the Big East. James Bates won’t be hollering on P12N, which will never telecast a basketball game using just one camera.

Sure, Wednesday’s launch was chock full of bragging about the “conference of champions.” What else were you expecting from the Pac-12 Networks?

There was lots of talk about the wonders of the one national and six regional networks. Lots of talk about the online elements — dubbed TV Everywhere.

And no talk about the lack of a deal with either DirecTV or Dish Network.

Stevenson recently told reporters his team is “working day and night” on satellite and additional cable deals, talks that he said are going “very, very well.”

He added that satellite and cable companies aren’t arguing “that fans don’t want this content.” Dish officials said that about The Mtn. until that channel died.

Odds are the Pac-12 Networks will be on DirecTV in less than two years. And on Dish sooner than never.

P12N is already available in more homes in San Diego County than The Mtn. was. And San Diego State isn’t in the Pac-12.

Yes, P12N is fighting that same ol’ distribution battle. But it comes armed with cannons, not pea shooters.

P12N has agreements with distributors — including Comcast and a couple of smaller cable companies in Utah — that reach 48 million homes, although Stevenson is vague about exactly how many homes P12N is in. But it’s worth pointing out that the Big Ten Network launched in about 20 million homes, and The Mtn. launched in less than a million.

The Mtn. was a big deal in Utah and pretty much nowhere else. P12N is a big deal throughout the conference.

Five Pac-12 football games and 90 men’s basketball games weren’t on TV at all last season. This season, all will be televised live. The number of women’s volleyball games that will be televised will jump from 15 to more than 80, “and it’s kind of like that in every sport,” Stevenson said.

P12N is, however, a new operation. Mistakes will be made.

Like ... the first game telecast on P12N was a replay of December’s football championship matchup between Oregon and UCLA — an absolute dog of a game.

Putting that on Wednesday’s schedule was almost a Mtn.-ish decision.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Pac-12 Networks on Comcast in Utah

Channel 37 • Pac-12 Mountain in standard definition. It’s in the Comcast Digital Starter level of service, as well as in the Digital Preferred, Digital Preferred Plus and Digital Premier.

Channel 757 • Pac-12 Mountain in high definition. It’s in the Comcast Digital Starter Level of service, as well as in the Digital Preferred, Digital Preferred Plus and Digital Premier levels.

Channel 410 • Pac-12 National in standard definition. It’s in the Comcast Sports Entertainment Tier.

(For Comcast subscribers in Heber, the info is the same, but it’s on Channel 53, Channel 757 and Channel 411.)