Pierce: Nothing good to report on Pac-12 Network, DirecTV
When it comes to the Pac-12 Networks and DirecTV, no news is definitely not good news. And, unfortunately, there's no news to report.
P12N is still not in the satellite TV provider's lineup.
The just-departed president of Pac-12 Enterprises, Gary Stevenson, made statements that sounded hopeful before he left. But they didn't differ significantly from statements he made last summer and fall.
The current thinking is that if there's a deal between P12N and DirecTV, it will come in mid- to late August, just before the football season kicks off. But that's a big if. DirecTV has indicated there are no substantive talks going on these days.
In a way, the Pac-12 Network is looking like the defunct MountainWest Sports Network. Both of them got on one satellite TV system; neither of them (to date) got on the other.
"The Pac-12, after a year [is] still not on DirecTV," said Javan Hedlund, the MWC's associate commissioner. "Everybody thought that, oh, the Mountain West should be on. They're kind of learning that even the Pac-12 can't get it done."
Ouch. That hurts. But there's truth to it.
To be clear, Hedlund wasn't criticizing the Pac-12. He was simply making the point that getting distribution for a college sports cable network isn't easy, even if for one of the nation's top-five collegiate leagues.
The two situations are not altogether analogous. P12N is in far more homes than The Mtn. ever was. And it made a deal with a satellite system (Dish) just after the football season began, not three seasons in (DirecTV), as was the case with The Mtn.
Still, there's that nagging lack of a deal, and nothing has changed in the past few months. DirecTV says P12N is asking too much; P12N says DirecTV is offering too little.
And the situation may have become even more complicated when a new competitor entered the arena last week. As was long anticipated, the SEC Network will launch in 2014.
The rivalry on the field translates into rivalry in television distribution. Missouri athletic director Mike Alden told the Kansas City Star that according to "agencies that rate the branding," the Pac-12 is not a one of the top 25 brands in sports. "I don't even think it's a top-50 brand."
So getting P12N on cable systems in SEC country and on DirecTV is tough. Whereas, according to Alden, the SEC "resonates in California, it resonates in Nevada, it has more of a chance for greater exposure."
Ouch. Alden is full of bravado, but he might be right.
The bigger concern for P12N, however, may be that the SEC Network could change the business model. There are reports that ESPN, which owns SECN, will charge 80 cents per subscriber per month to cable network in football-mad SEC country and maybe as little as 15 cents to systems elsewhere.
P12N has held firm that it treats all cable and satellite providers equally. Including DirecTV. Even though most DirecTV's subscribers are not in the six states that are home to Pac-12 members.
Both P12N and DirecTV are keeping a low profile on this. If they reach a deal, the announcement will probably come suddenly and unexpectedly.
Or maybe the entrance of the SEC Network into the arena will throw up yet another roadblock to an agreement.