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Picking apart the Pac-12's TV network right now is a little like kicking the league when it's down, what with the disastrous performance in the NCAA men's tournament.
But fans are running out of patience. Commissioner Larry Scott who brought the Pac-12 into the 21st century, greatly expanding its exposure and revenue was booed by fans at the league's basketball tournament in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.
And that was back when the Pac-12 was riding high, with seven teams headed to the NCAAs before five bombed out in the first round and Utah was upset in the second. Only Oregon made it to the Sweet 16.
The booing came from fans who have had it with the league's TV deals. And not just because, 43 months after the Pac-12 Network launched, there's still no deal with DirecTV, with no end in sight. Not just because of TV-induced late starts, particularly for men's basketball games.
As reported earlier, P12N has, in recent months, moved toward what was originally intended six regional channels, each focusing on two teams, and a national channel. In many cases, the regional channels are more readily available in their home areas than the national feed. That's the case with Comcast in Utah, which features P12N-Mountain, the home of Utah and Colorado, on a basic programming tier; the national feed costs subscribers more.
And many fans were not happy when they discovered that not all men's basketball tournament games aired across all the regional channels.
The league responded by urging fans to tell their cable providers to add the national feed, or move it to a less-expensive tier.
But fans have grown tired of being asked to do the league's work yet again. And it often doesn't work. Just ask DirecTV subscribers.
The fact remains that the Pac-12 Network lags far behind their rivals in distribution. (SEC Network 69.1 million homes; Big Ten Network 62 million; P12N 12.3 million.) That's another sore spot for fans.
Scott and the league's presidents have resisted partnering with ESPN (like the SEC) or FOX (like the Big Ten) and rejected a proposal from AT&T to win greater distribution for P12N. Is it better to own 100 percent of a channel that has 12.3 million subscribers or own 50 percent of a channel that reaches three or four or five times that many?
A decade from now, as the way people watch sports continues to change and more cut the cable/satellite cord, will the Pac-12 be sitting pretty with 100-percent ownership?
That's the hope.
It's worth remembering that when Scott and the Pac-12 (then still the Pac-10) signed a 12-year, $2.7 billion deal with ESPN and FOX in 2011, it more than tripled the league's previous TV revenue and was the richest deal of its kind.
Since then, Scott has been criticized as the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC have all signed bigger deals, leaving the Pac-12 at a revenue disadvantage. But that is in no small part due simply to timing and the steady rise in sports rights fees.
Should Scott have signed a shorter deal? Maybe. But how long will the rights fees continue to rise? That's a question that might be answered when the Big Ten negotiates a new deal in the next few months and we see just how clear Scott's crystal ball actually was.
It didn't require any kind of prescience to see there would be disgruntled fans.
Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
Pac-12 Network problems
• Still not on DirecTV, with no deal in sight
• Limited distribution P12N trails Big Ten Network by 50 million homes, SEC Network by 57 million homes
• Six regional channels don't carry all men's basketball tournament games