More Details Emerge On Pac-12 Broadcasting Rights Deal

 

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The Pac-10 concluded a short press conference this morning on the new media deal with ESPN and FOX and revealed a few more details that, given Stanford's national alumni base, might be more than relevant to a few of you.

  • In addition to the creation of the Pac-12 Network, the conference will create the Pac-12 Digital Network, a broadband network that will feature excess games that are not covered by any of the broadcasting partners or the Pac-12 Network, similar in structure to ESPN3.  Both entities will be under the umbrella of the newly created Pac-12 Media Enterprises, which will also be in control of all Pac-12 properties (championships).  No word yet on whether the Pac-12 Digital Network will archive events similarly to ESPN3.
  • It has not been determined how access will be granted to viewers on the Pac-12 Digital Network (only Pac-12 subscribers?  Season passes a la MLB.tv and NHL Center Ice?  Pay-per-view?).
  • A combination of 10 regular season football games will be broadcast on FOX and ABC.  The football championship game will still alternate networks.
  • It's a little unclear at the moment, but it sounds like, judging from the Pac-10's media release, that nationally televised games will not be regionally shown, meaning if they say national, it's across all 50 states and media markets.  The catch is that a majority of these games will be shown in primetime, meaning late-afternoon and night games.
  • To achieve the highest national exposure, 34 regular season football games not broadcast over-the-air will be broadcast on either FX, ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU.  No football games will be broadcast on any of the FSN networks.
  • However, this does not cover all regular season football games.  Any remaining regular season football games will be retained by the Pac-12 and Pac-12 Media Enterprises to be shown exclusively on the Pac-12 Network beginning Fall 2012.
  • The football championship game will take place on the final FRIDAY night of the regular season.
  • A total of 68 regular season basketball games will be shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, or FSN regional.  All remaining games will be picked up by Pac-12 Media Enterprises to be shown on the Pac-12 Network or Pac-12 Digital Network.
  • Over-the-air broadcast of the men's basketball tournament will only begin at the quarterfinals, but all 12 teams are eligible for the tournament.  All other men's basketball tournament games will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Network.
  • A minimum of five women's basketball games will be shown on one of the ESPN channels, in addition to 10 "Olympic" (non-revenue) sporting events (i.e. Big Swim, baseball, softball, women's gymnastics, etc.).
  • The Pac-12 Digital Network will feature "several hundred" events that are not covered by any of the broadcast partners, including the Pac-12 Network.
  • Approximately 200 live Olympic sports events will be shown on the Pac-12 Network spanning 30 sports, meaning MPSF games and other non-Pac-12 sports could be shown.

I don't know what everyone's situation is out there, but I'll relay how this will effect me (and my cable bill).  Perhaps some of you will be able to relate.

First off, hallelujah to saying goodbye and good riddance to FSN on football.  As most of you already know, some of FSN's "HD" broadcasts were shot in 720p and were possibly "buffered" before being relayed back to your television set (I've forgotten what the formal term for it is at the moment).  This resulted in a substandard viewing experience for many HD viewers as today's sporting events are typically shot in 1080p, if not 1080i.  While FSN may have stated that it's broadcasts were in HD, for some reason, football games looked as though they were just SD broadcasts with someone applying a "Sharpen Image" tool to it.  I've never had as many problems with FSN/CSN on this with hockey or baseball, but basketball and football were just terrible to watch visually.  I know some of you absolutely loathed FSN announcers as well, so we no longer get them.  Instead, we'll probably be bombarded with the likes of Jimmy Johnson, Joe Buck, and recent Pac-10 graduate Troy Aikman (yes, recent as in graduated in 2009 from UCLA with a degree in sociology).
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Did you know he never lost to Stanford?  I'm pretty sure he set a UCLA passing record against us as well.  (via www.today.ucla.edu)

Unfortunately for me, my current $104 cable bill (curse you, Comcast) will probably be increased twice in order to view all available Pac-12 content.  I'm one of the unlucky ones without cable competition and no access to a dish, so Comcast gets to charge me for a) a Digital Preferred package that will get me ESPNU, and then b) a Sports Entertainment package that will get me the Pac-12 Network (this is how the Big Ten Network is bundled right now).  Of course, I could always go to a bar or mooch on the TVs in Old Union to watch these networks, but really, alums in the lounge in Old Union watching sports isn't always the best idea, and I'm not sure a place like Old Pro would let me watch a game between Arizona State and Utah to determine the South division title when Cal is playing against Washington State at the same time.  Net cost to watch the whole of the networks that the Pac-12 bargained with at home for me in HD and DVR access?  $119 per month -- as of 2011.

I bring up the price because remember I said that no details were given on how access would be granted for the Pac-12 Digital Network?  If it's anything like the ESPN3/Time Warner debate that was only resolved this past October, access to the online content may only be granted to subscribers of the Pac-12 Network itself, meaning that even though its online, it ain't gonna be free.  As I mentioned, though, there still remains the possibility of season passes such as NHL Center Ice or MLB.tv, though if prices are exorbitant per season it may be more economical to just order the cable sports package.

All that money mess aside, I am super super happy that people will have the opportunity to watch Pac-12 games nationally that are branded as "national".  One of the main complaints from alumni out on the east coast has always been that it's rare for them to see a Stanford football or basketball game.  Beyond the Orange Bowl, Stanford-UConn, and the Final Four disappointment, people out east were never consistently shown Stanford games branded as "national" this past school year.  The Oregon-Stanford football game, for instance, was blacked out in the Northeast and Indiana/Illinois for a ND-Boston College matchup.

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Goodbye, color coded maps?  (via assets.espn.go.com)

Another thing to be happy about?  Online content available from anywhere in the world.  No longer do you have wait until the press release comes out on GoStanford to find out if men's gymnastics won an MPSF title, or if women's water polo finished the season undefeated.  A lot of people (ahem, some SECers, BigEast-ers) only focus on the big sports such as football and basketball.  While there's a lot of consideration given to those two sports in this new deal, for Stanford fans, Stanford Athletics has never been solely about those two sports, and fans have never, ever, ever followed just those two (yes, Ted Miller, you managed to irk a few people again at Stanford with these comments).  Even with Stanford offering free admission to all but five sports, many of them are considered "sell-outs" in the traditional sense of there being few, if any, empty seats available during a game.  I go to softball games and those games are definitely full.  While we may not do well in the big sports every year, there are definitely fans for all of Stanford's sports, and having them available online via the Pac-12 Digital Network and not a Stanford Full-Access production will definitely help foster alumni support back east for the athletic programs.

In conclusion, while it is going to be expensive -- really expensive -- for some of us to watch our games, the Pac-12 did so much right here.  As Jeff Nusser over at CougCenter points out, there's a whole lot for fans to enjoy in this new media deal.  Is it perfect?  No, of course not, but it does everything that we asked for and more.  I know that very few people were counting on a digital network, but with that included, wow. 

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