So now that we seem to have broken down most of the scenarios, what exactly will occur between DirecTV and the Pac-12 Network?
The potential possibilities:
1) A deal doesn't get done (if you believe the whole dealio about uplinks and what not). I find this highly unlikely. Now that many regional cable carriers on the West Coast have come to terms, DirecTV knows it stands to lose a significant number of its customers in this area of the country. It's highly unlikely the satellite provider wants to lose a decent chunk of their customer base at a time when their U.S. subscription base is already declining.
In addition, the Pac-12 needs DirecTV. It would be a PR nightmare for the Pac-12 if a good chunk of the country was excluded from this new arrangement. Comcast's baffling decision to stiff out half of their outer markets really put the Pac-12 in a position of need which they probably weren't anticipating, but there they stand now. Valuable alumni bases in Chicago and Washington D.C. would be cut off from Pac-12 sports viewing at a time when every market needs to be reached and broached.
I don't find this scenario likely. The Pac-12 and DirecTV are probably in standoff mode. Someone just needs to blink. Help DirecTV blink by going to I Want Pac-12 Networks and demanding service.
2) DirecTV agrees to carry games, but they drag their feet for weeks. Again, unlikely. Why would DirecTV jerk around their own customers for weeks to try and get a deal in place and risk alienating and losing valuable customers? Why would the Pac-12 do the same when their most valuable properties are being left unaired on the satellite carrier? There's nothing to gain from either side in dragging out the process when they could just come to a deal now. I actually find (1) more likely than (2).
3) DirecTV agrees to carry the Pac-12 Network, but it's the national network only. This is plausible. The satellite carrier is probably uncomfortable at the thought of carrying six regional networks that might have sizable interest in regional markets but low interest out-of-market. Almost all the football properties will be broadcast on the national network. It's quite plausible DirecTV is only comfortable with airing just one channel.
However, while that might be in DirecTV's interest, it's most certainly not in the Pac-12's. Not getting those regional channels on the air would really cause issues for alumni who are supremely interested in local programming, much like Bay Area transplants would want to watch CSN Bay Area or Washington transplants would want the Root Networks. More importantly, the Pac-12 wants to promote their brand in all facets of the sport, and the regional networks figure to provide more niche content that would interest a greater segment of fans. The Pac-12 wants these regional channels on there somehow.
4) DirecTV agrees to carry all seven networks. I figure this is what the Pac-12 wants, and there's a very good chance they will get it. It's all a matter of negotiating carriage and subscriber fees.
But the plan could figure in several different ways. For one, which tiers do they end up on? What would Pac-12 fans have to end up paying for to watch the contests?
a) All the channels are made available on the regular sports pack. Ideal for Pac-12 fans, ideal for the Pac-12, but not ideal for DirecTV. There will be great demand for the national channel and segmented demand for the regional channels. The national network figures to knock up the price of a sports package about a dollar or so a month, but each regional channel could add additional weight to the subscription package that isn't justified by demand for the product.
I don't see this happening unless the Pac-12 starts engaging SEC-level interest. We're a bit far away from that point.
b) The Pac-12 National Network gets filtered into the sports pack. The Pac-12 Regional Networks become their own separate subscription package. This would work similar to the Fox Soccer plan, which has its main channel on the Sports Pack. This plan was discussed earlier, but I don't find it very likely. No one is going to pay that much money to watch the regional networks in a separate package, not even fans in-market. It's not a smart pricing plan for DirecTV. This isn't Fox Soccer. The interest for a Washington football game is not even close to the interest that a Manchester Untied match will generate.
c) All the Pac-12 Networks (national and regional) become their own separate subscription package. This is even dumber than (b). The Pac-12 would never agree in turning their conference network into the equivalent of the HBO of college football. It'd be very hard for fans to buy in on taking all the networks.
d) The Pac-12 national Network ends up on the sports pack for national distribution. The regional networks end up being televised in regional markets. This is similar to how the cable providers currently treat the conference network.
However, they do end up on local tiers that make them cheaper and more accessible. I'd guess the Pac-12 Network wants that treatment with its channels in-market, and I imagine DirecTV will concede that demand is sizable enough for each channel in each market to make that move.
e) A combination of (c) and (d). Welcome to the holy grail of Pac-12 Network distribution. If you're on the West Coast, you're probably set with your local regional network with regular DirecTV service. If you're out of market, you can get the national network on the sports package If you want all your comprehensive Pac-12 coverage of your school and are out-of-market (a USC fan in Oregon or Illinois who really needs Pac-12 Los Angeles), you buy the subscription package.
In many ways, (c) would service as the NFL Sunday Ticket for Pac-12 aficionados, while (d) would provide most fans with the working necessities. Combining them would be the ultimate win for about everyone--the Pac-12 Network customer, DirecTV and the Pac-12 would all get approximately what they want.
If I had to guess, I'd think 4(d) is most likely to happen, with (3) having a good shot as well with 4(e) a remote possibility. ay if the Pac-12 wants to drag their heels. TV Anywhere also complicates matters a bit (why offer a subscription package when you have TV Anywhere?), and it remains to be seen if DirecTV will buy into that concept. I imagine this is probably one of the last chips the Pac-12 is trying to push through.
You can see how complicated things are between the Pac-12 and DirecTV. But I'd have to guess if a decision came soon, the resolution would involve one of these scenarios.