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Pierce: Pac-12 Network is good — if you can see it

Published October 16, 2012 1:47 pm

Sports on TV • It gets good grades in everything but distribution.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Seven weeks into its first football season, it's time to give the Pac-12 Network its midterm grades:

• Quality: B+

• Content: B

• Distribution: Incomplete

Of course, if you subscribe to DirecTV or a cable system that doesn't carry P12N, that distribution grade is a big fat F.

The headlines about the lack of distribution have overshadowed talk about the seven Pac-12 Network channels — the national feed and the six regionals. And, overall, the quality has been good. Football, particularly, has been very good. Surprisingly good.

The biggest surprise has been Rick Neuheisel. Who would have thought the former UCLA/Washington/Colorado coach would show so much personality while providing legitimate insights?

And "Pac-12 Football in 60" — games boiled down to an hour — are great for fans.

Other sports, like women's volleyball and women's soccer, are watchable. And that's a good thing.

The channel is giving Pac-12 fans more and better live coverage than ever. That applies particularly to the Olympic sports. Men's basketball. Even football. Previously, not all Pac-12 games were on TV.

As for P12N's football lineup, that's rather iffy. This past week, arguably the weakest of the three games the league had rights to (Cal at Washington State) was on P12N; UCLA-Utah and USC-Washington were on Fox.

This week, P12N has USC at Colorado, which looks like a yawner. Oregon-Arizona State is on ESPN; Utah-Oregon State is on ESPN2; and Stanford-Cal is on Fox.

Airing games on ESPN and Fox is great. But it doesn't help the negotiations with DirecTV, which issued a statement weeks ago that "the vast majority of Pac-12 football games featuring the most popular teams ... remain available to all DirecTV customers."

Like it or not, that's true.

And there's no sense of optimism emanating from the league of late. Last week at the Arizona State-Colorado game, commissioner Larry Scott told reporters that DirecTV is "showing no signs of taking it any time very soon. We've offered them the deal on the same basis that everyone has taken it, so we know it's a fair deal."

That's part of what makes these negotiations tough. If you put all your games on P12N, you deprive a lot of your fans of seeing the games. Ute fans have been through that before. Not a good idea.

If you cave and give DirecTV the lower fee it wants, you're undercutting your own future and costing your member schools money.

It won't make Ute fans/DirecTV subscribers feel a lot better, but holding the line in these negotiations is about adding to Utah's bottom line.

By the way, if you're a Dish subscriber, you won't be able to see all of Utah's events on television. Dish is carrying the P12N national feed (Ch. 413). If there are multiple football games on at the same time, Dish will put those games on alternate channels.

We're promised the same for men's basketball.

But if, for example, a Utah baseball, softball, women's gymnastics or women's basketball game is on the P12N's Mountain regional channel and not on the national feed, it won't be on Dish.

That may be a minor issue for most fans, but not all fans.

If you live in the Salt Lake area and you want to see everything, your best option remains Comcast. Like it or not.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com . —