No reporter consistently covers the business end of the Pac-12 better than Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, and this blog post on three potential models for the Pac-12 Network is interesting and worth a look.
The first two models are predictable: 1. transforming an existing channel into the Pac-12 Network; 2. Creating a new channel from scratch.
Wilner provides the pluses and minuses of both, which is not unexplored territory (but he explains it well).
Model No. 3, to steal his term, is the "whopper:"
This is the whopper: The conference would bypass the traditional, sub-based model and align with one of the tech giants.
Instead of teaming up with Time Warner or Comcast, the league would partner with Google or Apple.
Instead of turning on you TV to watch the Pac-12 Network, you’d turn on your computer (or tablet or mobile phone).
Someone talked to me about this a few months ago, and my immediate reaction was skepticism. What about the traditional audience that likes its TV remote control? As a side note, I thought Twitter was stupid the first time I saw it. (Suffice it to say, I would never make it as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley).
But, as Wilner notes, such a bold move toward the future would be very Larry Scott-ish. And if you think how quickly the technology is moving forward, well, betting on a cutting-edge model seems like a high-reward gamble with limited short-term risk (the chief one being giving up subscription fees).
The Google/Apple TV model is clearly a play on the future — in three or five years, big screen televisions and laptop computers will be one in the same.
It also fits with the west coast’s spirit of innovation that Scott and the league presidents are so intent on embracing.
(By the way: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Stanford grads, and Stanford president John Hennessy sits on the Google board.)
If you let this one marinate for a moment, it's intriguing, yes?
And, if we are willing to indulge speculation, is there not a hybrid option? Perhaps the Pac-12 could create a cable network and also team with Google or Apple? After all, Scott brought ESPN and Fox together on a TV deal. Why couldn't he create another unconventional partnership?