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How Many People Will Be Left Out of the New Pac-12 Network?


On August 15th, the new Pac-12 Networks will launch. Yesterday, guest blogger Porter Olsen detailed a few of the options and limitations for Pac-12 fans in regards to the new network. One of the big questions is whether this network will really be available to most fans. As stated yesterday, the Pac-12 is using a unique approach of splitting up into seven different channels.  There will be one national channel available anywhere in the United States on the four cable networks that the conference has negotiated deals with; Time Warner Cable, Cox Cable, Comcast, and Brighthouse. Then, there will be six regional channels that will be available to residents in each of those regions who have cable through one of those providers. Those six regional channels are Washington, Oregon, Bay Area, Los Angeles, Arizona, and Mountain.

What is not exactly clear at this moment are the boundaries for the two California-based channels, as well as, the Mountain channel. Will residents in Nevada, New Mexico, or Wyoming have access to the Mountain channel? Will Idaho, especially the panhandle close to Spokane and Pullman be included as part of the Washington region? Will Las Vegas be included as part of Los Angeles or Arizona? Will residents in Alaska and Hawaii be included?

I have some of these questions out to Pac-12 Network officials and hope to have answer to you soon. They have told me they will definitely get back to me with some of these answers; which I assume are actually still in flux as negotiations with cable providers continue. One thing is clear, there remains a tug-of-war between the network and DirecTV and Dish Network to provide national coverage of the conference. While DirecTV may ultimately agree to provide the national feed, it appears as though the opportunity to get the regional networks is slim. Recently DirecTV CEO Michael White was quoted as saying: “We’re not going to have seven channels — I can assure you of that.”

So, it looks like if you are a Husky fan living in North Carolina, or anywhere else outside of the state of Washington, you will be stuck with only watching a handful of games on the national feed and only if you happen to be a subscriber to one of the networks that has an agreement. Coverage on the national network would be split roughly 12-ways, although it could become even less if the Los Angeles schools begin to dominate it.

Oh course, you will be able to catch the occasional games on other networks including increased coverage of the Pac-12 by ESPN, including games on ABC, as well as, games on FOX, FX, and Fox Sports Net. So, it isn’t as if the Pac-12 football and basketball games will be entirely unavailable to fans around the country. The Pac-12 didn’t sign a record $3 billion TV deal for nothing. But, if you really want to make sure you get a chance to see every Husky game this year, then the Pac-12 Network will be the perfect filler for the other deals.

But, in regards to gaining access to the Pac-12 network, there are still many issues to be worked out. For Arizona residents, like myself, which is well within the footprint of the conference, access is going to be quite slim. Within the entire state of 6.5 million residents, only Cox Cable has signed up among all of this state’s available cable and internet providers (outside of Time Warner in Yuma).

All of this got me thinking. Just how many people are going to get the Pac-12 Network and how many will be left out in the cold. Here are the statistics we know about right now:

Cox Cable: 2.9 digital cable subscribers and 3.5 million internet subscribers nationwide.

Within Pac-12 Footprint

Arizona: Cox Cable is available in the Phoenix metro area and the Tucson Metro, plus some smaller southern Arizona cities.

California: Orange County, San Diego, and Santa Barbara

Time Warner Cable: 8.8 million cable and internet subscribers nationwide.

Within Pac-12 Footprint

Arizona: Yuma

California: Los Angeles, Inland Empire, San Diego, and most cities of the Mojave Desert.

Colorado: The small cities Gunnison and Telluride

Washington/Idaho: Pullman, Moscow, and Coure D’Alene

Comcast Cable: 22.9 million cable subscribers and 16.7 million internet users.

Within Pac-12 Footprint

Washington: Most of Western Washington and Spokane

Oregon: Portland and the Willamette Valley

California: Metro Bay Area, Metro Sacramento, Central Valley

Utah: Metro Salt Lake City

Colorado: Metro Denver and Front Range

New Mexico: Most of the population centers

Bright House Networks: 2 million subcribers

Within Pac-12 Footprint:

California: Bakersfield

All together, this adds up to approximately 37.2 million subscribers who will have access to the Pac-12 Network nationwide. The four largest cable providers within the Pac-12 footprint not signed up include; Charter Communications with 4.7 million subscribers (with major footprints in Eastern Washington, Southern and Eastern Oregon, Metro Reno, and Central California). Cable Vision has about 3.5 million subscribers of which 300,000 are in the Mountain West in and around Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah. Suddenlink offers services to 1.8 million subscribers, including Northern Arizona. CableOne has about 1 million subscribers including parts of Arizona and Idaho. In addition, Wave Broadband and cable offers service to 325,000 customers in Western Washington, Oregon, the Bay Area, and Sacramento.

Fans in Southern Oregon may be saved at the last minute though, as Kevin Allen, spokesman for Charter Communications stated “Charter is in active discussions with the Pac-12, but has not reached agreeable terms.” Knowing how these things go, that deal will probably get done. On the other hand, my provider Suddenlink sent me this email:

“Dear Jeff Taylor, 

Thank you for your email. I appreciate the opportunity to assist you today. 
At this time we do not have any plans to offer this service. 
Thank you for choosing Suddenlink”

But, the elephants in the room are DirecTV and Dish Network. DirecTV has 19.9 million subscribers nationwide and Dish Network has 14.4 million subscribers. AT&T’s Uverse has 3.8 million subscribers, while Verizon’s FiOS has an additional 3.8 million subscribers. So, all told, there are approximately 53.2 million cable and internet subscribers nationwide who will not have access to the Pac-12 Network, not counting the countless smaller companies out there. Even within the Pac-12 footprint, there are number smaller cities who will not have any form of access, as well as, those thousands of subscribers to the above companies within the major cities of the West Coast.

So, what are we to do if we are denied access to the Pac-12 Network and our favorite teams?

Gary Stevenson, CEO of Pac-12 Enterprises was quoted as saying: “Your options for watching the games if you don’t have Pac-12 Networks are to become a customer of one of the affiliates that do. We’re working hard on new affiliate agreements. … We continue to work hard to make that happen.”

But, what if there are not available options for someone like myself that lives in Flagstaff, AZ where none of the cable networks available are on board and even the national networks like DirecTV and Dish are not either? Will there be an ability to log one specifically to the Pac-12 Network online?

“If your cable or satellite company doesn’t carry the network, you cannot subscribe online only to the Pac-12 Network. That may come eventually, but not this fall.”

Soon I will have additional information up from my interview with Kirk Reynolds, Vice President of Communications for the Pac-12 Network. He should be able to provide a little more clarity on all of these issues. But, for now it remains a waiting game as we wait and see what the Pac-12 network is able to negotiate to give greater access to its fans around the country.