This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Now that her tenure as president of Pac-12 Networks is about to end, maybe Lydia Murphy-Stephans is able to be more open. In an interview with Cablefax she acknowledged, "There is a gap between what Pac-12 Networks delivers and the Big Ten Network and the SEC Network."
The word "gap" doesn't quite cover it. In 2016, the SEC paid its schools about $40 million each; the Big Ten about $34.1 million each; and the Pac-12 about $25.1 million each. That's a chasm that will widen dramatically in coming years.
Murphy-Stephans tried to excuse the situation by adding that "the revenue specifically from Pac-12 Networks is only one part of the overall revenue each university receives from the Pac-12."
That's true. The league has contracts with Fox and ESPN. But that's also true for SEC and Big Ten, which have their own channels as well as deals with CBS and ESPN (SEC) and Fox and ESPN (Big Ten).
In other words the Pac-12 make less from its conference channels and from its other TV contracts, too.
Murphy-Stephans sounded a bit defensive when she said, "I understand there is frustration, though no athletic director or administrator was ever told the Pac-12 Networks would deliver the same or more revenue than what its peer conferences are currently getting from their networks."
That's also true. But athletic directors and administrators were told that they'd make more money than what they've gotten from P12N.
Utah athletic director Chris Hill has said exactly that more then once. Washington State athletic director Bill Moos told the San Francisco Chronicle that, when P12N launched, members were hoping it would pay them $5 million-$6 million a year. This year's payments were about $2 million per school, according to Commissioner Larry Scott the biggest payout ever.
Sounding even more defensive, Murphy-Stephans acknowledged that disappointing P12N revenues are "one factor" in the huge gap between Pac-12 revenues and those of the Big Ten and SEC but she insisted her operation "shouldn't be called out" by member schools.
"I don't think it's fair in any way to call out Pac-12 Networks as the source of the deficiency the universities or maybe those particular athletic directors or administrators are citing," Murphy-Stephans said.
No, it's not THE reason. But it is a reason the Pac-12 is so far behind the Big Ten and the SEC along with NCAA revenue (primarily bowls and the men's basketball tournament), ticket sales, merchandising and outside TV deals.
I'm not bagging on Pac-12 Networks. The quality of the programming is great. The quantity is better than either the SEC or Big Ten channels.
And Utah is getting enormous sums of money from the Pac-12 a vast fortune compared to Mountain West days.
But league administrators and ADs have questioned P12N. Commisioner Scott has, at times, questioned its future.
And I can't see a way the network will ever match the SEC or Big Ten channels.
Some of you are still asking when the Pac-12 Networks will make a deal and get on DirecTV. Murphy-Stephans' answer was the same old, same old: "Pac-12 Networks has offered DirecTV the same distribution deal it has offered Comcast, Cox, Charter and others. Why DirecTV hasn't specifically picked up Pac-12 is a question for DirecTV."
So … never?
Sort of sounds that way.
Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.