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(Gary Stevenson is the chief executive of Pac-12 Media Enterprises. Courtesy photo)
Pac-12 Network on track to launch in more than 40 million homes

Pac-12 Network may be “most successful new cable launch in history.”

First Published Jun 15 2012 03:25 pm • Last Updated Sep 11 2012 11:35 pm

When the Pac-12 Network launches on Aug. 15, it just might be the best thing to happen to Utah’s athletic department since the school was admitted to the league.

Seven TV channels — one national, six regional — airing 850 live events in Year 1. High definition. Digital content.

At a glance

About the Pac-12 Network

The new sports channel will be on basic cable for Utah’s Comcast subscribers when it launches on Aug. 15. The league is still negotiating with Dish, DirecTV and myriad other cable companies.

Utes go first

Utah will get the honor of playing host to the Pac-12 Network’s inaugural football game.

Utah’s season opener against Northern Colorado on Aug. 30 is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m. The early start time will allow the network to pair the game with the Arizona State-Northern Arizona contest, scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m.

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What’s not to like?

Well, Utah athletic director Chris Hill and his team aren’t thrilled that the regional network Utah will share with Colorado will be known as Pac-12 Network Mountain.

"That scared us," he said with a laugh. " ‘They’re calling it the Mountain? That’s not good.’ "

The Pac-12 is not the Mountain West Conference, and the Pac-12 Network is not ill-fated, hard-to-find Mountain West Sports Network — aka The Mtn. But local fans may still feel burned by that experience.

"I think there’s anxiety there," Hill said. "But the whole fear of what happened last time — I think people have to get over that."

The Pac-12 Network has a national feed and six regional networks — Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Northern California, Southern California and Mountain — that each include two member schools.

In Year 1, 350 events will air across all seven channels. That includes 35 football games, about 135 men’s basketball games and "the best of the best" in Olympic sports, according to Gary Stevenson, chief executive of Pac-12 Media Enterprises. "For example, I’m sure that we will cover gymnastics from Utah."

Each of the six regional channels will have an additional 100 events — about 50 from each school.

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Distribution, present and future

When the Pac-12 Network was unveiled in July 2011, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House cable were on board.

For Utahns, that means Comcast subscribers will get Pac-12 Network Mountain on basic cable. And the Pac-12 insists on the same for other cable companies in the Salt Lake TV market — which encompasses all of Utah.

"We won’t do a deal with anybody unless it’s on basic in our geographic footprint," said Stevenson. (That may mean digital basic.)

"Outside of our geographic footprint, it’s likely to be on a sports tier," Stevenson said. That means fans in other parts of the country will have to pay more to get the Pac-12 Network, which is hardly something new and different.

"That’s not unusual for sports fans," Hill said.

Much remains up in the air, however. Local cable systems may offer the other six channels on a more expensive tier, or not at all.

"It’s case by case," Stevenson said.

The biggest question is satellite distribution, because — as of this writing — there isn’t any.

"Until we get satellite, people are still going to be nervous," Hill acknowledged. "I’m optimistic about it. I can’t imagine satellite balking at it for a long time."

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Take it with you

If your cable company carries the Pac-12 Network, you’ll be able to watch the channel anytime, anywhere on your mobile device.

“Let’s say you’re traveling in Florida and you want to watch Utah play a football game,” said Gary Stevenson, pictured, chief executive of Pac-12 Media Enterprises. “You just put your authentication number in and you’ll be able to watch that game on your iPad while you’re sitting on the beach.”

If your cable or satellite company doesn’t carry the network, you cannot subscribe online only to the Pac-12 Network. That may come eventually, Stevenson said, but not this fall.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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