For the last three summers, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has had to stick to the mantra that a wider distribution deal for the conference-owned networks was just on the horizon.
After the government approved the merger of AT&T with DirecTV last week, Scott’s game plan can take a more of a vertical approach.
“They’re delighted with it, and obviously, they’ve now got to digest a $49 billion dollar acquisition, but I’m confident we’ll be a priority, and there will be discussions that take place hopefully very soon,” Scott told reporters at the conference’s annual media day at the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank this morning. “I’m optimistic that we’ll have positive conversations.”
(Scott’s response to the question comes at the 20 minute mark in the video above)
DirecTV has been the biggest-name TV provider to hold out since the network launched in 2012, citing a business strategy that intends to back away from the rising costs of sports-related networks. It is the reason that the company continues to resist carrying the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. channel as well.
Pac-12 negotiations with DirecTV became even more strained the satellite dish service’s primary competitor, Dish Network, was given the title of “official dish provider” of the conference. Dish was among the first to come on board with the Pac-12 Network when it launched, along with Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
AT&T Uverse is also one of the major providers of the Pac-12 Network, and Scott said there are more than 70 agreements with individual distributors for the national and regional networks.
Verizon FIOS and Charter are with DirecTV currently holding out.
If Scott gets a chance to restart negotiations with AT&T on behalf of DirecTV service, it should have something of a domino effect in getting others on board, perhaps prior to the September college football launch.
“I can’t sit here and predict what may happen when, because those conversations have not been able to take place heretofore,” he said. “But I’m delighted for our partners, delighted for us.”
One of the latest reports estimating the cost of sports networks has the Pac-12, in only some 12 million-plus homes to date, asking for 39 cents per subscriber, the same as the Big Ten Network and half of what the SEC Network has been charging. That 39 cent figure is more in the ballpark of Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network.
Should a Pac-12 distribution deal get done to put the network in the 20 million homes of DirecTV, which also has the Big Ten Network, might it undercut the monthly rate per customer that other companies are paying? Scott said he is not concerned how the business end will work out for everyone.
“I certainly don’t anticipate a change in our existing relationships,” he said. “Our distribution is (already) terrific and well established and we are happy with it. I can’t speculate on how conversations will go with AT&T but I expect them to come soon and I expect them to be positive. But aside from that I really can’t hypothesize.”
== Our story on the Pac-12 Network distribution from the eyes of Pac-12 Networks president Lydia Murphy-Stephans
== The Pac-12 Network plight as it stood in 2013
== Could the Pac-12 Network sell equity shares in its business to help raise more money for its partners?
== How Colorado fans are as much wondering about the future of the conference distribution as L.A. might be.