When last we heard from the San-Jose Mercury-News's Jon Wilner on the state of the Pac-12's new television agreements, a "Pac-12 Network" was something the newly-expanded league definitely wanted (for Olympic sports coverage as much as the heightened football profile) but hadn't fully committed to.
According to Wilner today, though, that status has changed:
I’ve also been told by a source familiar with the league’s business model that a Pac-12 Network is more than a negotiating ploy on Scott’s part (which is what some analysts and college sports officials believe).The emphasis here is Wilner's; clearly, it's information he's willing to stand behind.
The network is a done deal and will be launched in Aug. ‘12, in conjunction with the league’s broadcast partner.
But as he points out, starting up such a network is one thing. Turning it into the money machine the Big Ten Network has become is another. A protracted subscriber-fee battle between the league and Time Warner Cable, the dominant cable provider in California, could become an even more bitter version of the infamous standoff between the Big Ten and Comcast in 2008.
If that's the biggest headline from Wilner's story, there's several more juicy details included, all of which are good news for Pac-12 fans and its member schools:
- Thanks to the huge sums paid out to the Big 12 (by Fox Sports) and Texas (by ESPN for the forthcoming Longhorn Network), the estimates for the Pac-12's new deal have been ratcheted upwards. Commissioner Larry Scott will reportedly be asking for "a more lucrative contract than the $205 million annual deal the SEC signed with CBS and ESPN three years ago." A deal with dollar figures anywhere near that ballpark would increase each school's annual television cut by millions.
- Though ESPN and Turner Broadcasting could bid for the league rights, the finalists are expected to be Fox Sports and Comcast. The league has allowed Fox's exclusive negotiating window to expire, presumably in order to see what Comcast (or a third party) would be willing to pony up. L.A.-based Fox may still the favorite, though, with their recent loss of Laker rights to Time Warner fueling the need to provide USC and UCLA games to the Los Angeles market.
- Once the national broadcast "platform" is in place, the league is expected to schedule weekly Thursday or Friday night football games.