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San Francisco • At this point, even Larry Scott is in on the joke: It's not officially a press conference unless a reporter asks him about DirecTV.
It took about 10 minutes at Pac-12 women's basketball media day, but a reporter in the back of the room finally piped up. "I don't want to ask about DirecTV," she said.
Scott responded in kind: "I don't want to talk about it, either. But I will."
Maybe no one wants to discuss the Pac-12 Networks' dealings with DirecTV because not all that much is happening.
Scott said talks to add Pac-12 Networks on one of the country's largest television providers are "stonewalled," saying no progress has been made, and DirecTV "isn't interested in having a conversation."
There's some blame on both sides, as the Pac-12 has asked DirecTV to take the same agreement of its 70 or so other providers, while DirecTV would like to pay the conference less money for subscribers in states without Pac-12 schools.
Long-term, Scott said, the Pac-12 feels that its quality of programm ing and the breadth of its offerings will help sell DirecTV on adding it to its distribution. But short-term, subscribers who want the Pac-12 Networks should not hold their breath.
Pac-12 Networks president Lydia Murphy-Stephans phrased it this way: "For this season, I would not in any way say to somebody, 'It's gonna happen.'"
Though Scott led the Pac-12 to be the top conference in revenue last year, according to a USA Today report, the dealings with DirecTV have become his scarlet letter, so to speak. While the Pac-12 Networks' distribution has grown by about 50 percent since its 2012 launch to roughly 60 million homes, the other major conference networks are on DirecTV, and may end up surpassing the Pac-12 in television revenues.
Utah athletic director Chris Hill estimated each Pac-12 school earns $18 million annually from the conference's ESPN/Fox distribution deal, but only $1 million annually from Pac-12 Networks.
"Disappointed may be too strong a word, but there may have been anticipation that there would be more revenue," Hill said. "The ESPN and Fox contract has worked really well for us, and we hope the Pac-12 Networks will work out, too."
Athletic directors aren't "intimately involved" in negotiations with providers, Hill said, and it's really Scott's deal to handle. But Hill said ultimately, he would like to see the standoff end and the network available on all major carriers.
The biggest difference between the Pac-12 Networks and its Big Ten and SEC competitors is ownership. The Pac-12 universities wholly own their networks, while the Big Ten Network is mostly controlled by News Corp and ESPN pays the SEC a licensing fee to operate the SEC Network. While the Pac-12 has more control of its content and the schools get to split the whole revenue pie, the conference also has less leverage in the negotiating room, Scott acknowledged.
But the Pac-12 is standing behind his model for now, and in the near future, it's hard to see changes ahead.
"I'm optimistic we'll get there," Scott said. "But I can't say when and where from this side of the table."