PAC-12 Network Finally Launches; Just In Time For College Football Season
CBS Sports’ College Football writer Dennis Dodd on the brand new launch of the highly anticipated Pac-12 TV Sports Network:
When the Pac-12 Network debuted in San Diego on Wednesday, there were more subscribers in that market to the Big Ten Network.
Don’t ever underestimate the Buckeye surfer demographic.
This is not to disparage the Pac-12 Network or elevate the Big Ten Network. It is a call for calm. The Pac-12’s networklaunched Wednesday like a digital hydra. There are seven of them bound for glory and riches, the Pac-12 believes. The media, for the most part, concurs. This space merely questions.
To this point the P12N has had their new product sufficiently promoted. Commissioner Larry Scott is brilliant and articulate. His expertise has made sure the conference will have the rights to technology that has not been invented yet.
But to date, the Big Ten Network has been the one/1/uno college-centric network that has made it.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 Network is less than a day old. While its success has been trumpeted, like any start-up it comes with a disclaimer: long-term profitability is not assured.
As of now the Big Ten Network remains the standard. It turns five this month having made a profit in its first year. It proudly attracted 30 million subscribers within 30 days of it launch. It currently has 51 million subscribers and is truly a national network
Simply put, the Big Ten Network has blood under its fingernails having hammered out cable system deals literally door-to-door in the early days.
“I do admire what the Big Ten has done …,” Pac-12 Enterprises head Gary Stevenson told the Los Angeles Daily News. “but I do think there are advantages to doing something like this from scratch.”
From scratch? Check that blood under the Big Ten fingernails. The Pac-12 Network’s biggest initial advantage wasknowing a conference network could be launched.
The Pac-12’s national network — there are also six regionals — wasn’t available in Orange County, Calif. on Cox Cable, one of the network’s four founding partners. The OC is arguably the heart and soul of the conference’s television footprint. (To be fair, the national net is available on other cable carriers and Cox is taking the Pac-12 Southern California regional network. That’s their prerogative in the P12N’s ala carte-type set up.)
I’m confused, and I’m not the only one. That’s not necessarily bad things for the new network. It’s just how you view them. And how you view them is what this college networking thing has been about. With that one major exception, they have been big on promise and short on delivery.
The Pac-12 Network launched Wednesday hoping one day to help deliver perhaps $30 million per year to member schools. I was one of those who wrote that figure in a blog months ago convinced that the Pac-12 wasn’t just new, it was a new invention. But at the moment, the conference can’t tell you for sure how many subscribers it has.
Don’t advertisers need to know such things? Not really. The large majority of revenue in such ventures is made through subscription fees. Those are reflected on your monthly cable bill. You want some channels, you don’t want others.
It in the industry it’s called value proposition.
“If you want to go out on a limb and start a network you’ve got to make sure you have a value proposition that is going to be something cable carriers HAVE to HAVE,” said one college media analyst. “Time Warner has gone without the NFL Network forever. Time Warner is saying — to have access to a couple of [NFL] games is not worth spending billions of dollars.”
And yet Time Warner has said yes as well to the Pac-12 Network as one of its four founding cable partners. Good for them. Carriage ultimately reflects the consumers’ desires. But The Mtn. died. The Longhorn Network has been a flop to this point. The Big 12 decided five years ago not to do a network. The SEC intends to launch a network (code named: Project X) but its launch may be years away.
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