The days of wondering if the Cougs will be on TV are over. Starting tonight, the idea that seemed like a pipe dream just a couple of years ago will become a reality.
Shortly after Larry Scott signed a huge TV contract with Fox and ESPN he announced the most opportunistic plan for a conference television network to date: The Pac-12 Networks. Fans knew something like this was coming, but the size and scope Scott and his team announced blew everyone away. The Pac-12 would have, not one, but seven brand new television networks, one network for a national audience and for each "natural rivalry" pair. In addition, there will be one all-encompassing digital network. All eight launching at the same time, all eight 100% owned by the conference.
There is a lot on the line with the launch of these networks. The Pac-12 has put a lot of time and money into, what could be, a very lucrative venture for the conference and its schools. Tonight they will finally have a chance to show off what they have done. At 6 p.m. both the national and regional networks will come on air with a program called Pac-12 Live and they will be on the air 24 hours a day until the end of time*.
Now, the launch of these networks is huge and there is a lot of information flying around. It can be confusing, but President of Pac-12 Enterprises Gary Stevenson has done a lot of interviews to clear up some of the confusion. I gathered some of the information from him, and other sources, to compile a list of frequently asked questions that I have answered below the jump.
Will I get it?
Well, this is the $250 million (per year) question. When Scott and the conference announced the networks, they also announced a partnership with the four largest cable companies in America, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Charter. That was a major coup as, right off the bat, that make the networks available in more than 40 million homes. A few weeks ago, the network started adding more and more smaller cable and fiber optic companies including many in service around Washington State. Included in those are Wave Broadband, Frontier FIOS and Astound. These small additions added around 1 million more homes. In comparison, the Big Ten Network was only available in 30 million homes when it launched in 2007.
The network is hard at work to get other providers on board. To see if your provide has signed up, check the Channel Finder on the conference's website.
They're Hard at work? Seriously, I have satellite, Will I get it?
Chances are? Yes, you will, but the timeline may not be ideal.
Many freaked out when a DirecTV representative was quoted as saying they had no interest in carrying all 7 channels, and with good reason. However, CougFan recently caught up with Stevenson to ask him about the negotiations with the satellite operators and took a more optimistic tone.
"They have a different business model (than cable) so there are a lot of things... that are very specific in working out an agreement," said Stevenson. "It's been very positive. But it's not done 'till it's done"
Another article, from Daniel Frankel of PaidContent.com, cites a representative for DirecTV who says talks are ongoing and, if reached, no announcement is expected until "closer to the school year."
Stevenson urged fans with providers who aren't on board to call their providers and voice their displeasure.
"It is very important for them to hear what their customers want - it's a business, and it's helpful to the carrier when they're making a business decision," said Stevenson.
What channel package will I need?
It's going to differ based on your provider and where you live. Most of the cable partners have adopted a plan that separates regions into zones. Zone one includes home markets like Seattle, Spokane, Portland, LA, etc. Everyone living within zone one will have access to at least the regional network on a basic tier. Zone two features markets in the Pac-12 region footprint, but outside of a home market (for example, San Diego and Sacramento). These customers will have access to a network on a digital tier. Finally, everyone else is considered a zone three and will have access to a network on a sports tier. The ultimate resource for Pac-12 TV news, John Wilner, has more information here.
Most cable networks within the Pac-12 footprint have signed on to carry multiple networks as well. According to Wilner, those within a home market will have access to the regional network on a basic package, but they will also have the option of buying the sports package in order to see the national network.
Now, this information just pertains to some of the providers already on board. When, and if, some of the other major national providers sign up, they may make special arrangements. It's quite possible that DirecTV or Dish Network may only carry the national network.
According to Christian Caple, Time Warner customers in Pullman can find Pac-12 Washington on channel 242 in SD (channel 642 in HD). The national channel will be available on channel 240 (640 in HD) as part of a sports package. Comcast customers in Spokane can find the Washington network on channel 430 (628 in HD) and the national network on channel 431 as part of a sports package.
For those in Seattle, according to Bob Condotta, Comcast will carry the Washington network on channel 430 (428 in HD) and the national network on channel 431, available with a sports package.
Like so many other online services these days, you will have to be a subscriber to the channel in order to access content. Through the Pac-12 Digital Network you'll be able to watch live games, both available on TV and produced exclusively for the internet, on multiple devices (iPad and PC at launch, other devices to follow)
You can log-in to the service right now, even before launch, at video.pac-12.com and view some archived footage. However, for some unknown reason, Comcast customers can only view Pac-12 Network digital content on the Comcast website at XfinityTV.com.
What will the schedule be like?
You can view the full schedule for the Pac-12 national network for the first two week here. The schedule for the Washington regional network is available here, but it is more or less the same. Throughout the first couple weeks, the schedule is mostly populated with preview shows and game replays from the 2011 season.
For a full description of all the planned programs on the networks, click here.
How are the regional networks different from the national network?
For the most part, the schedules mirror each other. You will only start to see changes as the season progresses and game replays, and certain other programs, will be tailored to each network. The major differences will come on Saturdays when the regional networks will act as a form of overflow so the networks can air multiple games at once. For example, on Saturday, September 1, the national network, along with 5 of the regional networks, will air Nevada at California in the noon time slot while the Oregon network will air Oregon State's game against Nicholls State. All of the networks that did not air the Oregon State game live, will air a replay of it midnight, following the Washington game against San Diego State.
The next weekend will get a little more interesting. On September 8, there are three games, Easter Washington at WSU, Southen Utah at Cal and Sacramento State at Colorado, scheduled for the noon timeslot. The networks haven't announced which networks will get which games yet, but I would guess it would work in a similar fashion to week one. I would assume regional networks with teams playing would, obviously, see the games live and everyone else, including the national network, would see the same "national" game.
What games will be on the Network?
The Networks will air 35 football games over the course of the season. As of right now, we only know what a few of those games are, they are listed here. Additional games will be announced as season continues.
In addition to football, the Pac-12 networks also gives Olympic sports an outlet to be shown on TV. The networks will carry every Men's basketball game and will carry "in the neighborhood of 50 women's basketball games". The network has also announced extensive live coverage of women's soccer, men's soccer and women's soccer. The networks will announce coverage for additional sports as their seasons approach.
When do the Cougs play on the networks?
The first time WSU will grace the Pac-12 Networks in a live game will be for a week two football game when Eastern Washington on September 7th. As the season advances and more TV selections are announced, the Cougs will more than likely find their way back to the Pac-12 Networks a couple more times.
Aside from football, WSU will have a strong presence in both women's soccer and volleyball. Soccer will have seven televised games throughout the season, starting with a September 14 home matchup against Hawaii, and volley ball will be televised 12 times starting with a September 18 road game against Washington.
Who is working for the network?
Perhaps the most important thing about live game broadcasts is the announce team, and the Pac-12 hit this out of the park (although it would have been a grand slam if they would have acquired the services of one Michael Preston. I guess they can't win them all...).
There are three main broadcast teams, each led by a talented and experienced play-by-play man. Ted Robinson, who called game for Versus last year (including the WSU/ASU game from last year), will team with his broadcast partner on Versus, and former NFL player, Glenn Parker. Robinson has covered sports for 30 years and is the current play-by-play man for the 49ers. He also covers tennis, swimming and diving for NBC, including work at this years Olympics.
On the second broadcast team, Dave Fleming will team with Coy Wire and Brooke Olzendam. Dave Fleming has worked as the radio voice for the San Francisco Giants and Stanford football. Coy Wire is a former Stanford linebacker who had a nine year NFL career. Finally, Olzendam is a sideline reporter who has spent time in the northwest and graduated from the Washington State. Go Cougs.
The third broadcast team features Seattle legend Kevin Calabro, Adam Archuleta, and former USC coach Yogi Roth. Calabro is, of course, the long time (and future) voice of the Sonics and current host of his own show on 710 ESPN Seattle along side super-Coug Jim Moore. Archuleta is a former Sun Devil safety who spent some time in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.
The network will also have former Pac-12 players and coaches including Ronnie Lott, Rick Neuheisel, and Summer Sanders providing studio anaysis. Throw in the great Neil Stover doing some excellent work in the edit bay, and you have something that comes damn close to a dream team.
Get excited folks. The next generation of Pac-12 media is on the way. Personally, I think I'm just going to leave it on my TV 24 hours a day, just for the heck of it.
If you have any more questions, leave them in the comments below and I'll do my best to hunt down an answer (which will probably come from John Wilner).