On the heels of a gigantic media rights deal with Fox and ESPN, the Pac-12 has announced the details of its newly formed conference network. The Pac-12 Network is set to broadcast a slate of programming that includes football inventory held back from the primary media rights deal, as well as Olympic sports and other Pac-12-centric programming. In order to form the network, the Pac-12 pulled in the services of Comcast, Bright House and Cox and Time Warner to form six regional networks, as well as a national network.
Pac-12 football games will be assigned to Fox, ESPN and the Pac-12 Network through a lottery of sorts, with each of the networks rotating the first picks on a week-to-week basis. Between ESPN, Fox and the Pac-12 Network, all football and men's basketball games will be broadcast on television. The Pac-12 made a conscious decision to hold inventory out of the primary deal in an effort to give the Pac-12 Network a head start and make it more enticing to networks and distributors.
The Pac-12's decision to create multiple networks, including regional channels that cover the six travel partners in the conference, should allow for easier distribution and locally-aimed programming. By partnering with multiple cable networks, the Pac-12 Network should also find it easier to gain widespread distribution, a common problem for new networks trying to get off the ground.
The Pac-12 will not, however, hand over the conference network to the various cable companies involved. Instead, it will keep ownership over the newly formed networks, and keep all the equity as part of the deal. The Pac-12 will own and control the newly formed national and regional networks over the life of the deal. The Pac-12 Network will launch in August 2012, just in time for the start of next year's football season.