Recently PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott led ground breaking ceremonies in San Francisco for the PAC-12 Network(s) headquarters. The league expects to have not one, not two, not three -- but seven total national and regional networks up and running by mid-August. The number of networks, as well as the proposed profits are breathtaking, and every other BCS league will be paying close attention.
The PAC-12 is the most geographically-friendly BCS league and it will use its natural pairings (USC-UCLA, Stanford-Cal, Arizona-Arizona State, Oregon-Oregon State, Washington-Washington State, Utah-Colorado) for the regional networks. There will be at least 850 live events available to the networks, and it will mean that every football and men's basketball game will be shown live nationally and regionally.
The package is the brainchild of Commissioner Scott who is touting the group of networks as a way provide PAC-12 fans everywhere the opportunity to see their favorite teams live and to help reduce the "East Coast Bias" that comes with promoting so many teams and individuals who generally play their contests late into the night.
Then there is the money. Scott estimates that the networks will help generate almost $30 million a year for each PAC-12 member in media revenue. If it all comes to pass as Scott envisions, he isn't just the PAC-12 Commissioner -- he is the "Salesman of the Decade."
Scott's salesmanship started within the league when he convinced the 12 members to go "all in" with media rights.
Larry Scott first convinced the members of the PAC-12 to turn over all media rights -- radio, TV and Internet -- to the league office. That means even third tier rights. He essentially sold them on the "NFL Model" of sharing media rights to make the league as strong as possible. Scott believes that by bundling the rights through the league, everyone is in a better position to compete nationally. It also made it easier to negotiate with its national media partners since the league office was speaking with one voice.
And what a voice it turned out to be. Last year Scott negotiated a 12-year / $3 Billion rights deal for the conference with ESPN and FOX.
Scott watched as the Big 10 Network went through growing pains, and decided that the league would be the sole owner of the PAC-12 networks.
The true measure of Scott's salesmanship came with his negotiations with the networks. Not only did he wrangle $3 Billion from ESPN and FOX, he withheld a significant portion of the prime inventory for the PAC-12 Networks. The networks will have 44 football games in their inventory, leaving 36 for the PAC-12 Network. The network will also have over 100 PAC-12 basketball games in its inventory (although at this point the league is so pathetic that could be seen as a negative.)
Obviously baseball will also be a staple of the networks, as will the Olympic sports, which have always been a strong suit of PAC-12 Universities.
The combination of the national and regional networks having a healthy football inventory meant that the league was negotiating from a position of strength with carriers. Which brings us to,
This is Scott's greatest triumph to date. Six months before they take to the air, the league has already secured distribution deals with the four biggest carriers in its markets of dominant influence -- Time Warner, Comcast, Cox Communications and Bright House. Scott watched the Big 10 Network struggle for over a year to get clearance with cable carriers and he was determined to avoid that pitfall, and we all know how contentious those negotiations can be, don’t we?
Right now the league is still in negotiations with the satellite distributors, as well as cable carriers such as AT&T and Verizon. But the premise will be the same for all. If you live in the PAC-12 dominant area of influence (California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado and Utah) the national network and your specific regional network will be available on the basic expanded cable tier. The carriers will make the PAC-12 national network available on their premium cable tier everywhere else.
The other key to the distribution deal is the league's control over digital rights. The PAC-12 digital network will work very much like ESPN3. The "TV Everywhere" concept is key to the PAC-12 plan - as long as you pay for it. If you are a subscriber to a cable or satellite carrier, the PAC-12 digital network will be available on any and all mobile devices.
If you are a USC fan in Texas, and you subscribe to the network, your games will also be available on your mobile devices.
THE PROPOSED PAYOUT
Scott negotiated some prepayments from the networks for their new deal (he really is one helluva salesman) and is using that money to cover the production and start up costs of the networks.
Making the deals with distributors ahead of the actual start up gives the PAC-12 a pretty good idea as to what the revenue stream will look like right off the bat. The reports are that the PAC-12 negotiated a 90 cents per subscriber per month price for the basic cable distributors.
Before the networks sign on, they are already available in over 40 million homes in their dominant markets of influence. Right now the Big 10 network has 45 million subscribers and is available in 80 million homes.
The availability is there, but "If You Build It, Will PAC-12 Fans Come?"
That is the $64 million question. West Coast fans will never be mistaken for the fanatics that fill SEC, Big 10 or Big 12 stadiums, but then again "The Cult of Personality" could come into play here. Just take a look at how some of these teams are spending their new-found dollars.
Four new coaches enter the league for the upcoming season.
Mike Leach -- Washington State
Rich Rodriguez -- Arizona
Jim Mora Jr. -- UCLA
Todd Graham -- Arizona State.
Leach and Rodriguez are making a lot more than their predecessors, money they are being paid to generate buzz as well as win games.
The multi-network experiment kicks off August 15, and it won't just be the PAC-12 league office that will be monitoring as to how how they are received. You can be assured that a lot of BCS Athletic Directors will be watching with interest as well.