July 25, 2012
By Jonathan Okanes, Pac-12 Networks
Put down that TV Guide.
Log out of those online listings.
Quit channel surfing with that remote control.
Gone are the days of searching for your school's game on television, or worrying about whether they're even on TV at all. In a new era that will revolutionize televised college sports, Pac-12 Networks launches this fall and will provide unprecedented coverage of a wide variety of sports across the Pac-12 Conference.
Pac-12 Networks and TV partners FOX and ESPN will ensure that every football and men's basketball game is on television, this season and in seasons to come. Just make sure your television provider offers Pac-12 Networks, and never again will you have to miss your school on the gridiron or the hardwood.
In addition to full coverage of football and men's basketball, Pac-12 Networks will air an extensive menu of games not traditionally on television. Approximately 700 Olympic sports events are slated for the networks during the 2012-13 athletic season, so you'll be able to watch your university's team play your favorite sport, whether it's soccer, volleyball, water polo, softball or just about anything else.
The Golden Rule here is pretty simple: When trying to find your alma mater's game, check Pac-12 Networks. There's a good chance you will find it there ... assuming your provider offers Pac-12 Networks, of course. And if they don't, call them and tell them they should.
The six Pac-12 regional networks will allow for geographically focused programming ... in addition to the 350 national events that are aired simultaneously across all seven networks, each regional network will show nearly 100 Olympic sports events featuring one of the schools in the region. For instance, Pac-12 Arizona will get a heavy dose of Arizona and Arizona State Olympic events, while Pac-12 Washington will load up on Washington and Washington State. This national/regional mix will allow any Pac-12 Networks viewer to see the best games the conference has to offer, while also getting to focus on their local school.
"This is groundbreaking stuff," said Pac-12 Networks football analyst Rick Neuheisel, who has coached at three Pac-12 institutions and was the quarterback for UCLA's 1984 Rose Bowl team. "We've all gone out and bragged about our conference, made the claim that we competed against the best. We've all planted our conference flag. Having gone to school with so many wonderful athletes myself, it will be neat to know that today's athletes will get their stories told."
The networks are the vision of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who decided to launch a pre-emptive strike in the battle for enhanced recognition for the conference. Feeling like the Pac-12 has long been undervalued nationally, Scott proactively concocted a plan for increased exposure, finding a way for the accomplishments of the Pac-12's student-athletes to get into millions of homes across the country. He struck a deal with cable powerhouses Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House to ensure the networks will be accessible to at least 40 million homes.
The conference's offering will also have a huge digital component, which will allow fans to watch on a variety of devices as long as they subscribe to one of the conference's contracted video providers. Pac-12 Networks leadership also plans for the content company to have a major presence in mobile and social media.
"The scope and scale of what we're doing is different than anything else that has ever been done in sports," Pac-12 Networks president Gary Stevenson said.
While the thorough coverage of football and men's basketball gets a lot of attention, the conference is just as excited about the exposure its Olympic sports will finally receive. The Pac-12 has long been the leader in Olympic success and fans now will finally hear about these athletes before an Olympic year. Athletes such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Matt Biondi, Kerri Walsh and Natalie Coughlin all attended Pac-12 schools but didn't become household names until after college. Pac-12 Networks will introduce similar athletes to the world while they are still competing collegiately. For context, consider this: the Pac-12 had 256 athletes compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing - representing 48 countries - and those athletes combined to win 89 medals. If the Pac-12 was its own country, it would have ranked third in the overall medal count behind only the United States and China. In the history of the Olympics, Pac-12 athletes have amassed 1,092 medals. Only three sovereign nations have more - the U.S., the former Soviet Union and Germany.
"Right off the bat, Pac-12 Networks recognizes how important the Olympic sports are and how deep the strength of the Olympic sports are in our conference," said Pac-12 Networks reporter Summer Sanders, who led Stanford to the 1992 NCAA women's swimming championship before earning four medals later that year at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. "Olympic sports are starting to get a bigger following, and not just in Olympic years. A lot of Olympians go to these 12 universities, and our network will be a way to highlight them. The Olympic sports will see some much needed love." While Pac-12 Networks will deliver unprecedented coverage on the field, the conference also plans on using its multiple platforms to showcase its institutions on a broader level.
"Pac-12 Networks will provide dramatically increased exposure for our universities by featuring interesting content that focuses on the excellence, rich tradition and unique personalities of each school," Stevenson said. "This will create learning opportunities for millions of people, recruitment opportunities for our universities, and much-deserved exposure for world-class faculties that include Nobel Prize winners and many other leaders in their fields."
At its core, the mission of Pac-12 Networks is to tell stories - the games themselves will create their own scripts, but the conference hopes to go well beyond on field-activities with a variety of compelling programs. In May, Pac-12 Networks announced the hiring of Neuheisel, Sanders, and former USC defensive back and Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott, three high-profile conference alumni who will be the "Faces of the Network", and who will be entrusted with telling the highest profile stories. The trio will not only provide analysis for the sports for which they are experts, but they will also branch out to introduce fans to athletes, coaches and teams across all sports and institutions.
"There are a lot of untold stories out there that our alumni will find fascinating," Neuheisel said. "The games are terrific already, but we can add to them by telling some stories that have been on the shelf for far too long."
Not only does the conference want its network to tell stories about the Pac-12, but it also wants the network to be created by the Pac-12. That means working with the institutions - including students and alumni - to shape the networks' programming and its infrastructure. By way of example, the Pac-12 is already working with the UCLA Music Department to create music for its on-air promos and photography departments at Arizona State and Washington State to help create an image library.
And as for the alumni connection, the Pac-12 has already demonstrated a strong desire to keep its business in the family. Just a few cases in point:
The construction company responsible for the Pac-12 Enterprises headquarters build-out in San Francisco is owned by Cal graduate Steve Matt.
The building itself is owned by USC alum John Kilroy.
Radley Studios, which is doing much of Pac-12 Networks' graphics packaging and design, is owned by Kurt Spenser, an Academic All-American swimmer from Stanford.
And Ooyala, the online video company the Pac-12 hired to help forge its digital identity, is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and prides itself in employing nearly 60 alums of Pac-12 institutions.
Speaking of digital, Pac-12 Networks will have a robust online presence with its live video and on-demand content. Pac-12 Networks is much more than just television - the company is a content platform for all 12 schools, which will enable fans to watch their favorite Pac-12 sport on just about any device. The conference has already earned 451 NCAA national championships - nearly double the number posted by any other conference. For that reason alone, the conference feels its networks are long overdue.
In many ways, Pac-12 Networks is especially tailored to you, the Pac-12 alum. Not only will you get unprecedented coverage of your teams, but you will get constant reminders of what makes you so proud of your alma mater. From student-athletes' inspiring off-the-field stories, to coverage of the most inspiring campus events, to groundbreaking research and development initiatives, Pac-12 Networks will be your source for what matters most at your favorite university, and in your favorite conference. So as you are preparing for another great year of championship caliber Pac-12 sports, don't forget to make Pac-12 Networks your favorite channel.