The college football season starts today, and the Pac-12's new series of networks (seven of them, they're proud to explain) will be under the microscope as critics wait to see if the fledgling net can find the same success the Big Ten did when they launched their own cable channel five years ago.
Only so many eyes, though, will be peering through that microscope. As the first major live broadcasts approach—tonight's Utah-Northern Colorado and Arizona State-Northern Arizona games are both scheduled for Pac-12 Network—there aren't all that many people who will be able to watch. DirecTV, Dish Network, and Verizon FIOS are all major providers in Pac-12 markets, and all have turned down Pac-12's pleas for carriage.
Of course, the Pac-12's press release looks on the bright side:
At present, millions of subscribers to Time Warner Cable, Cox, and Bright House can log in to view Pac-12 Networks broadcast channels. Pac-12 Networks is working with Comcast, Frontier, Suddenlink, BendBroadband, and other distributors to enable access for their subscribers later this fall.
At the same time, the conference has published an open letter to fans on its website, asking DirecTV subscribers to cancel satellite and move back to cable (assuming the local cable provider is one of the three actually offering Pac-12 Network). A total of 35 college football broadcasts are at stake, though the Pac-12 really has itself to blame for seizing the rights before securing distribution.
They could have learned a thing or two from the Longhorn Network, a collaboration between ESPN and the University of Texas that carries a handful of exclusive UT football games but which pretty much nobody can watch. (Time Warner, Comcast, Charter Communications, AT&T U-verse, DirecTV and Dish Network all said thanks-but-no-thanks to carrying the Texas-themed channel.) It's great to reap the profits of selling your own advertising time, but sponsors aren't going to buy ads that won't have an audience.