Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Pac-12 TV deal a win for college basketball
By Diamond Leung
The Washington Huskies reached the Sweet 16 last year, and the media declared them the favorites heading into this season. Lorenzo Romar and Isaiah Thomas, prepared to prove everyone right, marched into Los Angeles on Dec. 29 for the Pac-10 opener and walked right into an ambush at the Galen Center. USC led by 12 points early, got a 28-point, 14-rebound performance out of Nikola Vucevic and ultimately took Washington to overtime. The Huskies, amidst foul trouble and frustration, still prevailed.
It was a great game featuring storylines and future NBA draft picks, and yet the game wasn't televised.
Assume Fox viewing positions? Um, no. I had to follow the game blow-by-blow over my personal Twitter feed.
Dec. 29 certainly wasn't the date when Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott threw up his hands and realized the conference needed change with its new television deal for 2012. For the fans, not being able to watch the opener on TV was simply outrageous.
But while Washington's win against USC wasn't the first Pac-10 basketball game not to be televised, it could very well be one of the last after Scott announced on Wednesday a 12-year television contract with ESPN and Fox that begins in the 2012-13 season.
A clear winner in all this is college basketball because the new deal gives the Pac-12 not only more exposure, but also the necessary number of platforms to broadcast all the games.
ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and Fox Sports Net will have the rights to broadcast 68 regular-season games every year. The ESPN channels will air 46 of those games on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday nights, including in new 8 p.m. PT windows.
The Pac-12 is also creating its own network, and the balance of the regular-season games -- more than 120 of them -- will be televised there. If a conference game is being played, count on it being televised because Scott created his own space to do so. (Scott said the channel will likely be subscription based.)
ESPN receives the rights to the Pac-12 tournament title game every other year beginning in 2012-13 along with one Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal and semifinal game. (TV executives indicated Wednesday they preferred to keep the tournament in Los Angeles.)
Additionally, Scott had academics to please and did so. The Pac-10 currently plays on Thursdays and Saturdays with the occasional Sunday. Adding Wednesday dates creates more exposure opportunities, but Scott said he did not have plans to play on other nights.
"We didn't have to move off of our scheduling model very much," he said. "It's not going to create more missed class time for student-athletes."
So it's a win-win for college basketball. The entities involved got what they wanted, and more importantly, the beneficiary is the fan who wants to watch the Pac-12.