You may remember that broad distribution of the Pac-12 Network is being held up by DirecTV, which has balked at assigning bandwidth to the upstart sports network. Only the Big Ten Network has managed to make a profit running its own network, and other BCS conferences – most notably the SEC – have turned to big-time partners like ESPN to ensure distribution.
Going it alone, the Pac-12 may do battle with DirecTV for a while yet. But they have added a major piece of the distribution puzzle this week, signing on with AT&T U-verse today. There was no standing on ceremony, either. The network went live on AT&T U-verse immediately, so more homes were able to tune in today’s football games.
From the official press release:
With the deal, Pac-12 Networks now is available on four of the top six distributors in the U.S., and more than 50 television providers overall. Existing partners continue to launch Pac-12 Networks in more markets around the country including Comcast in Chicago, Time Warner Cable in the Midwest, and Cox in New England and the Washington DC area, among others.
As always, football is driving the bus on this deal, but a couple of months from now, college hoops fans on the left coast will have more opportunities to see their favorite teams lace ’em up.
One of the most interesting aspects of the U-verse deal is the plan to make the Pac-12 Network available on mobile devices such as phones, tablets and PCs. Sneak-watching sports at work just gets easier every day.
I had always assumed that the University of Hawaii sports budget was hemorrhaging money. The sheer burden of having to fly over 2,000 miles just to make landfall in California seems like a handicap that would be near impossible to overcome. Then consider that, at times, the Warriors had to trek inland as far as Tulsa in past WAC seasons and the whole thing sounds exhausting and dreadfully expensive.
Nonetheless, according to the Pacific Business Journal, Hawaii’s basketball program spent just $2 million last season, ending with a very respectable 19-13 record.
That doesn’t mean the program’s in the black — revenues were just $1.5 million — but realignment may very well boost that return on investment to at least the break-even mark. As the newest members of the Big West, the Warriors won’t have to schedule any in-conference road trips outside of Cali. Boise State will wreck that geographical footprint a bit, but it seems obvious that the travel budget can be slimmed down a bit even then.
A look at some of the presumptive savings, from a 2010 article in the Long Beach Daily 49er:
Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan said the school could save “as much as a quarter-million dollars” with the move.
“What we had to look at was the opportunity cost of staying in the WAC as it geographically moved further and further to the Central Time Zone,” Donovan said. “That would have meant additional costs for us, more time away for our student-athletes, which would impact them academically. So, certainly, we’ll have cost savings playing the Big West as compared to the WAC.
“We couldn’t afford not to do it.”
It’s not like the level of competition will suffer much, either. With our No. 11 San Diego Aztecs making the Big West move next season as well. Between the WCC and the Big West, the Pac-12 is going to have some serious competition for the marquee late-night TV slots a year from now.