In its first year, the Pac-12 Networks pretty much pulled off a miracle.
Building from scratch, it delivered seven different channels — one national and six regional feeds — of remarkably high quality. If you watched the men’s basketball tournament, the games on P12N were indistinguishable from the games on ESPN in terms of technical quality.
“We tried to make that seamless,” said Pac-12 Networks president Lydia Murphy-Stephans.
No, P12N isn’t perfect. There were the inevitable glitches. And we could argue for days about the merits of various sportscasters.
But you won’t find a perfect live telecast of a any sporting event. Not even on ESPN.
In Year 1, the Pac-12 Networks delivered 550 live events and 200 hours of additional programming. There are 750 live events on the slate for the 2013-14 season.
The Big Ten Network boasts about 350 live events per year on TV, with another 400 online. All 750 events on P12N will be on TV and online.
P12N is widely available in the six states where league schools are located; it’s available nationally on Dish Network; and, if you’ve got the right cable/satellite subscription, you can watch it online.
And yet ... pretty much all anybody wants to talk about is what hasn’t happened. There still isn’t a deal with DirecTV.
And there’s no deal in sight.
“I’m not optimistic right now,” said Pac-12 Networks president Lydia Murphy-Stephans. “I wish I was.”
The two sides continue to talk. But those talks haven’t amounted to anything.
“Not a week goes by where DirecTV is not on my hit list of things to move forward,” Murphy-Stephans said. “So we’ll continue conversations.”
Those talks are still where they were a year ago. DirecTV thinks P12N is asking too much for its channels — channels DirecTV isn’t sure its subscribers want. And P12N thinks DirecTV should pay what its cable partners (including Comcast, Time-Warner, Bright House and Cox) and Dish are paying.
Even without DirecTV, the networks “are on plan and on budget,” Murphy-Stevans said. “In fact, we’re a little bit ahead of where we thought we would be.
“Until we’re in over 75 million homes, [distribution] will stay at the top of our list.”
How many homes are the channels in today? Murphy-Stevans isn’t saying. And, frankly, that leaves the impression that the numbers are nowhere near 75 million goal.
But she isn’t wrong when she says, “There are options for our fans.”
There’s a long list of cable providers that carry the Pac-12 Networks, at least in the league’s six home states. And if you live where there’s no cable coverage, you have the option of subscribing to Dish.
“Tell people they need to find a provider who carries the Pac-12 Networks,” Murphy-Stephans said.
For the foreseeable future, DirecTV is not an option.
Granted, it’s not necessarily as easy as just making a calling and switching providers. DirecTV and many cable subscribers are tied into contracts. DirecTV customers may not want to give up NFL Sunday Ticket.
Last season, almost half of Utah’s football games, three-quarters of its basketball games and six gymnastics meets were on P12N. Word is there will be more this coming season.
You have to factor in how important watching the Utes is to you.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.