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It's the deal that has Larry Scott "delighted."
AT&T has acquired DirecTV, which the Pac-12 believes could be a huge push as it seeks "complete distribution" for its network. But there remains a huge question: When?
During Pac-12 media days in Burbank, Calif., no one had a prediction for a timeline when the deal could get done. Football is now almost a month away, which casts doubt that Pac-12 Networks will be on DirecTV and serving its 20.4 million U.S. subscribers before the first kickoff.
But president Lydia Murphy-Stephans said on Friday that the network brass was "looking forward to strengthening and expanding our partnership so that Pac-12 fans don't miss any of what's bound to be a thrilling football season."
There's no clear indication of when a deal might get hammered out, Pac-12 officials told The Tribune. The acquisition was completed when the FCC approved the deal last week. But Scott said he expects that the restarted negotiations will be different from when talks stalled.
"As a standalone, DirecTV was getting ready to be sold and was trying to keep its costs down with the [Los Angeles] Dodgers and the Pac-12 Networks," he said. "They weren't taking on any new stuff they didn't have to do."
AT&T is a corporate partner with all 12 conference universities, and it carries Pac-12 Networks on its U-verse provider. DirecTV is a slice of its business, and Scott expects AT&T to be more willing to expand its relationship with the Pac-12.
Even so, some projections particularly numbers commissioned by the San Jose Mercury News indicate that increased viewership won't necessarily help the Pac-12 cover a future revenue gap with the SEC and Big 10. While the conference performed well over the past fiscal year, TV deals in the SEC and Big 10 are expected to kick up value over the next few years.
While those conferences have found success partnering with ESPN and Fox, respectively, Scott said he intends to retain full ownership of Pac-12 Networks. He believes that could serve the conference well, particularly as some media executives foresee major changes in the TV industry.
When Disney CEO Bob Iger said he sees ESPN eventually being sold directly to viewers rather than being a part of a cable subscription package, some in the industry recoiled. But Scott said the Pac-12 is better positioned than others if such things come to pass.
"Well, that's a game-changer," he said. "If and when that happens, I'd like to be in control of my own network rather than someone else in control."
Stay is granted in O'Bannon case
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court quietly granted the NCAA a bit of respite on Friday.
The court issued a stay on a 2014 ruling in the Ed O'Bannon case, which asked universities to set aside $5,000 per athlete for use of their names, images and likeness. The original ruling by Claudia Wilken last summer sent ripples throughout the NCAA, which has thrived on an amateur athletics model throughout its history.
At Pac-12 media days, the O'Bannon case wasn't a hot topic, but Scott acknowledged it's been a looming sword over NCAA institutions since last year. The schools and the NCAA are still formulating plans to comply with the order in case another ruling goes against them.
"I think many of our schools know exactly what they want to do, some will wait and see," Scott said on Thursday. "With all that's hanging in the balance, it would be nice to have clarity."
The NCAA made its case in March, but according to The Associated Press, there is no deadline for a decision from the court.
More than clothes
The Pac-12 announced a deal with adidas as the conference's official apparel provider last week. But while a big part of the sponsorship is clothing Pac-12 employees will be rocking three stripes on their official gear it's part of a larger partnership with the conference.
Scott confirmed that adidas will have advertising on Pac-12 Networks, will sponsor programming such as Pac-12 Sports Report and will sponsor some championships for the conference.
The deal doesn't affect any existing university agreements with apparel companies, such as Utah's contract with Under Armour. Scott said none of adidas' competitors were caught off guard.
When asked in jest if he had considered wearing an adidas jumpsuit rather than his business attire, Scott responded, tongue firmly in cheek: "They didn't pay enough to get my rights."