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Pac-12 Network & DirecTV: Satellite Carrier Taking New Approach To Niche Sports?

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Is DirecTV no longer making niche sports a priority? Their stance with the Pac-12 and potential stance with the new Laker channel seem to indicate a focus on keeping subscriber costs down.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Pac-12 and DirecTV are at a standstill in negotiations, and it's probably hard to see why. The satellite carrier has always been about showing sports, regardless of what type or what niche was trying to be filled by one of the channels. Regardless of what was being broadcasted, you could bet that the Pac-12 would do their best to distribute it.

Yet with the Pac-12 Network, things have been different. What's given? What's changed the game?

Jon Wilner has hinted at a change in management being one of the big deals, saying that the departure of a key negotiator with Pac-12 ties has made all the difference. But it seems like overall the philosophy has changed. For the first time in a long time, sports doesn't seem to be the biggest priority of the network.

It looks like whoever's in charge over at DirecTV is deciding to take a different approach from before. Now sports is no longer a priority because of subscriber costs. Perhaps the satellite company has reached the apex of its growth and is ready to start catering to the numerous subscribers who don't want to watch sports or don't want to pay too much for all the sports.

Check out how DirecTV is currently approaching the current Time Warner Cable channel that will be distributing the majority of Lakers games.

Time Warner Cable is asking as much as $3.95 per subscriber per month from competitors in the L.A. area, said a person familiar with the situation. The person requested anonymity because the negotiations are confidential and the details were not yet final.

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Bob Toevs, a spokesman for Dish, confirmed that talks are ongoing, but said "it will have to be a good value for us and, most importantly, for our customers." DirecTV said in a statement that it is "very engaged" in talks to carry the channels, but said it has a responsibility to its customers to "avoid any extraordinary increases" in their monthly bills.

Notice it's DISH, not DirecTV, that appears to be making inroads.

Time Warner is issuing a much steeper price in-market compared to what the Pac-12 has proposed to offer for the satellite carrier, about $3 more per subscriber. Obviously, demand for the Lakers in Los Angeles is far more saturated than demand for the Pac-12 throughout the Western tier, so you'd imagine Time Warner would probably feel confident they could get DirecTV to carry the channel.

But it's starting to look like nothing is certain in that regard. If DirecTV won't carry the relatively cheaper Pac-12 Network, how can they expect to carry something as expensive as the Laker network?

Perhaps DirecTV is starting to see that a la carte is the future of sports programming and is starting to make those inroads, although it's clear their experimentation process is all wrong. They can't expect to test one network like the Pac-12; the conference would counter that no other network would be exposed to such scrutiny on its own.

It's possible DirecTV is just hardballing both networks on a deal, but the Pac-12 has refused to budge and it's unlikely Time Warner will either. So here we stand.