A couple of years ago, I was startled to discover that my mother in upstate New York had better access to the Pac-12 Networks than most people living in Utah. Her cable package in the little town of Endwell included not just the national P12N feed, but all six regional feeds.

I’m not aware of a cable system in Utah that offers that.

The strange saga of the Pac-12 Network has gotten a little bit stranger. The network has announced a partnership with Alibaba that will include 175 live telecasts and 100 hours of original programming annually — in China.

The Chinese audience will see football, men’s basketball, women’s volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, lacrosse, track & field and beach volleyball.

So ... Zhang Wei, who lives in Beijing, will be able to watch a Utah football game, while John Smith, who lives in Salt Lake City — and subscribes to DirecTV — will not.

That’s not an altogether fair comparison. But the irony still is somewhat staggering.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the Pac-12 Network for this. Financial terms of the deal, which runs through 2024, weren’t announced, but the league is getting paid something for programming it already is producing. Minus translation costs, which should be minimal.

The league also believes it has a built-in audience in China because “many” of its schools “have a significant alumni base” there.

P12N will be distributed on Alibaba’s “innovative platforms,” according to the Pac-12, both linear and digital channels “such as Youku Todou — known as the YouTube of China,” which will “allow Chinese audiences to access Pac-12 Networks content conveniently and effortlessly.”

Unlike rabid Utes fan John Smith, who still is trying to get out of his DirecTV contract.

ESPN smacks down Huskies coach

Washington football coach Chris Petersen expressed unhappiness last week that his team has to play consecutive games that kick off at 7:45 p.m. PDT.

It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure,” Petersen said last week, in comments that were disseminated nationally. “No one wants to watch our game on the East Coast that late, and we all know it.”

His theory is that voters in the East don’t see Washington’s games, which costs the Huskies votes in the polls — and potentially a spot in the playoffs.

But during its telecast of the Washington-Cal game this past Saturday, ESPN put up a graphic declaring that Pac-12 games “starting at or after 9 ET average 38 percent more viewers than earlier kick times.”

And ESPN sportscaster Rod Gilmore told viewers Petersen is “entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. And his facts were wrong on this.”


Petersen said a 7:45 p.m. PDT kickoff is “painful for our team. It’s painful for our administration. And we know certainly the most important part is [it’s painful] for our fans.”

Yes, it’s terribly painful to accept tens of millions of dollars in TV revenue.

Ute fans need to keep all this in mind Saturday when their team plays its eighth consecutive night game (extending back to last season). Saturday’s game at USC kicks off at 6 p.m. MDT.