The Pac-12 Conference has once again altered the landscape in college sports, announcing a historic new broadcast structure for its forthcoming Pac-12 Network that will feature six regional TV channels to accompany an over-arching national one that will provide its teams greater media exposure than ever before.
"The exposure is going to be phenomenal," Utah athletic director Chris Hill said.
The league announced Wednesday it will create its networks next August, in a 12-year partnership with four major cable companies.
Not only will the network be available nationally on Comcast, Cox, Time-Warner and Bright House cable systems, but it will "superserve" fans by tailoring programming on its six regional networks to fans in those areas. Satellite services such as DirecTV and Dish Network are not yet part of the deal, Scott said, but the league hopes to get them and other cable companies to carry it later.
Fans of the Utes can watch such targeted programming on the Pac-12 Mountain regional network. The other networks will be focused on Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Southern California and Arizona.
"This is tremendous news for our fans," league commissioner Larry Scott said.
The network will feature 850 events each year, about 350 of them on the national network and the other 500 on the tailored regional networks. All broadcasts will be in high-definition.
Fans also will be able to watch the networks on digital devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, though it has not been determined whether fans who live outside the area of a particular regional network can subscribe to that network. It's also unclear how much the network might cost; officials said it will be up to each cable company to decide whether the networks will be part of a basic subscription package or require an upgrade to a more expensive programming tier.
Either way, Scott said the agreement will fulfill a promise the league made, that every football and men's basketball game will be available to a national audience, along with "hundreds" of Olympic sports. Many of the league's football and men's basketball games will be broadcast on ESPN or Fox, as part of the league's complementary 12-year deal with those networks that is worth about $3 billion.
"With its innovative approach, the Pac-12 Network has the potential to reach a huge market," Hill said. "The scope of this television deal shows the immense power and prestige of the Pac-12 Conference and its popularity across the country. We have long felt that our sports programs at the University of Utah were well deserving of national exposure and I'm pleased to say it is now a reality."
Scott did not disclose financial terms of the new deal, but said recently he believed the new network could be worth up to $1 billion to the league over seven to 10 years. If the league earns $1 billion over the 12 years of the agreement, each of its schools could stand to receive an additional $6.9 million a year, on average, in addition to the $21 million they will receive annually from the ESPN/Fox deal.
The Utes won't get a full share of that money until 2014-15, however, according to the conditions of their entry into the league July 1. Hill said he did not know whether the Utes will immediately receive a full share of the revenue to be distributed from the new deal.
"The worst-case scenario is we get half a share," he said.
The league said the network will be available nationally to almost 40 million cable customers, and will use iNDEMAND to provide certain production and operation services. "This is an example of how innovative organizations can collaborate to create something that is entirely original and the will serve the college sports fan better than anything that has existed before," Scott said.