Pierce: Good news, Ute fans: Pac-12 Networks lookin' good
For the University of Utah, 2012 feels a bit like 2006. The Utes are boldly going where they tried to go before.
They're in better company this time, however. If you're going to be part of a new TV sports network, it's certainly better to be doing it with the Pac-12 than with the Mountain West Conference.
That's not a slam at the MWC. But a TV channel devoted to a league made up of teams mainly from the sparsely populated Mountain Time Zone was an iffy proposition from the start.
The Pac-12, on the other hand, is in some big TV markets. And has some big-name schools with big fan bases.
"When we do 850 events next year," said Pac-12 Enterprises president Gary Stevenson, "there are going to be â¦ so many individuals that are going to be fascinated with what's on the air because of their deep passion for this conference. And that's really what drives it."
We won't see a programming grid until at least mid-June, but Stevenson and Lydia Murphy-Stephans, executive vice president and general manager of Pac-12 Networks, made it clear the schedule will be built on live sporting events, not studio shows.
"Our plan in our first year is to do 850 live events, so we will be a very events-centric network," Murphy-Stephans said. She didn't rule out adding a flagship studio show at some point, "but we're not planning it for Year 1."
What Ute fans want to know is if they will be able to see their teams on TV. And if you live in Utah and subscribe to Comcast cable, the answer is yes. Comcast signed on when the Pac-12 Networks were announced in 2011.
As for Utahns who subscribe to other cable companies or satellite TV, the answer is maybe. The Pac-12 is in talks with DirecTV, Dish and a variety of cable operations, and no announcements are expected for a while. Maybe not until shortly before football season begins.
Outside of Utah, this will get complicated, however. There's not one Pac-12 channel there are seven. There will be six regional networks, each serving two schools. (Utah is paired with Colorado.) In addition, there will be a national Pac-12 Networks feed.
While no formal announcement has been made, the league has indicated that each regional network will be available on basic cable in its home area. The national network will be on a higher (aka more expensive) tier. The other five regional networks if they're available will cost you even more.
If you're a Ute fan who lives somewhere other than Utah or Colorado, it will definitely cost you to see the Pac-12 Network-Mountain.
By the way, 350 live events will be simulcast on all seven channels. That number includes 35 football games, 125-plus men's basketball games, "in the neighborhood of" 50 women's basketball games, and another 200 Olympic sports, according to Stevenson. Each regional network will also air about 100 other events up to 50 each from the two schools.
"How that ultimately breaks down by school has yet to be determined," said Pac-12 Enterprises spokesman Kirk Reynolds.
Those numbers do not include nationally telecast football and basketball games on Fox or ESPN networks.
The bottom line is that, what with the Internet and mobile platforms, Ute fans will have incredible access to their teams. These will be the best of days.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.