A ceremony was held today at the San Francisco site where the Pac-12 Network studios are expected to be constructed. Officials called it a groundbreaking, but it was more of a wallbreaking, since the studios will be in the same building as the Comcast Sportsnet studios on Third and Harrison.
The new network, which will be the third conference-specific network after the Big Ten Network and the mtn., is expected to be the first to be wholly owned by a conference. Despite the Pac-12’s insistence on owning the network solo, it will have no shortage of partners, starting with housemates Comcast. College football will always be a considerable draw, and while college basketball throughout the conference may be in a bit of a slump, there should be plenty of interest in many of the non-marquee sports (baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, etc.) to provide plenty of programming. When the network launches in August, it’s scheduled to show 850 sporting events every year.
One operational difference between P12N and other conference networks is that they’re setting up to provide up to six regional feeds along with its national feed. That should allow every market and cable operator to show games specific to those markets if multiple events are happening simultaneously. I’m not sure how this would work with satellite providers like DirecTV and Dish, other than for them to pick up a package of all seven channels. Will all seven be available on both cable and satellite? The Merc’s Jon Wilner has some info from last week’s pre-launch announcement.
With just the cable providers, the network will be available to 40-45 million households. At $0.50 per month per household, that’s potentially $270 million per year in subscriber revenue alone, or $22.5 million per school before costs are deducted (not accounting for ad revenue). That figure could reach nearly half a billion annually if the satellite providers are included, perhaps more if the cost for the channel were more than $1 per month. The University of Texas’s Longhorn Network charges $0.40 per month/subscriber, the Big Ten Network charges $0.36. The Longhorn Network experienced problems getting cable systems to partner up, a problem Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is looking to avoid. The network, or at least the national and specific regional channels, will appear on lower tier cable packages, so Joe Customer will be paying for it.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the various RSNs now that a significant amount of Pac-12 programming will be going elsewhere. The other western college conferences have little general fan interest compared to the Pac-12. On one hand, carrying Pac-12 games and shows is a cost. On the other hand, it’s good filler and has a fairly good fanbase to draw upon. The alternatives are to focus more on a market’s pro teams, high school sports, or the aforementioned non-glamour conferences. Heck, the only FBS schools in California besides the Pac-12 members are San Diego State, Fresno State, and San Jose State. Not exactly a ratings bonanza waiting there.
Personally, I don’t look forward to my DirecTV bill going up because the Pac-12 wants a little more coin. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing more college baseball, soccer, even women’s sports. That might make it worth it.