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College Hotline - Pac-12 media matters: Fox Australia’s on board, but what about DirecTV?

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    You hear the Pac-12 is about to announce a distribution deal with a major three-letter carrier on the eve of the season and immediately think … is it possible? … is it happening? … D-T-V?!?!?

    Yes, it’s possible, but no, it’s not happening – at least, it didn’t happen Friday night.

    (Could it happen this week? We’ll address that topic in a moment.)

    Instead, the conference announced a multi-year deal with Fox Sports Australia to televise 13 football games (one per week) and 21 men’s basketball games annually, including eight from the conference tournament.

    Interestingly, the latest step in the Pac-12’s Global Initiative was agreed to last week before an international event (Cal vs. Hawaii in Sydney) that was not part of the Global Initiative.

    Unlike the men’s basketball games in China each November and other overseas events, the conference did not operate and promote Cal-Hawaii. The Bears put the deal together themselves (and collected $1 million in profit, by the way).

    My sense from talking to officials throughout the conference is that we’ll see more Pac-12 football games in Australia, perhaps starting in 2017 or ’18. Several schools are interested, and a move in that direction makes even more sense when the Fox Sports Australia deal is factored into the equation.




    The distribution expansion into Australia through Fox Sports is far more significant for men’s basketball than football. Exposure Down Under is great for football programs in need of punters, but Australia doesn’t exactly produce a steady stream of 280-pound defensive tackles.

    On the other hand …

    Andrew Bogut
    Ben Simmons
    Patty Mills
    Dante Exum
    Matthew Dellavedova
    Luc Longley
    Andrew Gaze (can’t forget Gaze!)

    The basketball talent in Australia is significant. The Pac-12 needs basketball talent. Maybe this deal helps league’wide recruiting efforts.

    *** Now, about DirecTV …

    In past years, the Hotline advised Pac-12 fans to be cautiously optimistic when the season approached and negotiations with DirecTV heated up.

    That was, in part, because some of my best sources on such matters were either 1) expecting a carriage deal or 2) felt it was a reasonable possibility.

    Not this year.

    The sentiment has shifted: Nobody expects a deal and many don’t even consider it a reasonable possibility.

    Nobody says it won’t happen, or can’t happen — that’s an important caveat. Carriage deals are like conference expansion: It’s never done until it’s done, and sometimes not even then.

    But skepticism is extraordinarily high, and that seems like the sound approach for Pac-12 fans to take, as well.

    *** My view of the matter boils down to this: What does the Pac-12 have that DirecTV and its overload, AT&T, would want in exchange for offering an acceptable sub fee?

    AT&T’s play for campus-wide rights in exchange for carriage was rejected last year by an 11-0 vote (Washington State abstained).

    Equity in the Pac12Nets? That was discussed last year but not part of AT&T’s final offer.

    Maybe there’s another asset I haven’t considered, but DirecTV has gone four years without the Pac12Nets and is doing just fine.

    AT&T has had a multi-year partnership with the Pac12Nets (through U-verse) and could have cut another deal after taking over DTV last summer.

    Instead, it asked for something the campuses rejected en masse. That would seem to speak volumes about how it values the Pac12Nets. One year later, has anything changed?

    At the same time, the Pac-12 cannot agree to a substantially lower sub fee from DTV without having to re-write deals with other partners and undermine its own business model.

    The time for a deal was last August/September, when the AT&T takeover of DTV was fresh … and it didn’t happen.

    Now we’re one year removed from that potential collaboration point, one year closer to the end of AT&T’s contract with the Pac-12 and four years removed from DTV’s initial rejection of Pac12Nets carriage.

    The dynamics for a deal have ebbed, it seems.

    *** Of course, I have not spoken to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, Pac12Nets boss Lydia Murphy-Stephans or the AT&T brass in charge of negotiations.

    All of this is just reasonably-informed speculation; please take it for nothing more.

    Could a deal happen this week or next? Absolutely.

    But at the moment, it sure seems unlikely.

    * Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline



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