Tomorrow is Pac-12 day in Utah as the conference officially adds Utah and Colorado to its ranks and expands its membership for the first time since 1978 when the Arizona schools joined to form the Pac-10. The announced 3 billion MegaTV deal has leapfrogged the Pac-12 comfortably past both the SEC and Big Ten in total revenue. Just a couple of days ago Scott also updated us on his plans for the Pac-12 and Pac-12 digital networks. Possibilities include converting an existing channel, building a channel from scratch, or going all digital and eschewing the traditional concept of a cable TV channel and instead partnering with Google or Apple or both and being at the forefront as the convergence of large HDTVs, laptops and other smart devices rapidly accelerates. Most insiders believe Scott is most likely to have both a dedicated cable channel and one or more digital partners.
Yes we do have some added flexibility from our MegaTV deal, but there would seem to possibly be some value lost over the next 4-5 years to not atleast also have a dedicated channel because not everybody has Wi-Fi flatscreens or their HDTVs hooked up to laptops by HDMI yet. The idea though if we did go all digital would be to avoid the subscription model and have any and everything be available for free with advertisers footing the bill. Personally, I would not mind some advertising help and when you are actually watching the program it would most likely be minimized. Probably it would be most common when you are just browsing through options. I trust Scott to make the best decisions for the conference and maximize the potential because so far he has done an outstanding job. Partnering with Google makes sense but that doesn’t mean Apple can’t also be supported. We just don’t want to necessarily hand most the reins off to Apple who might try to get 99 cents for every game streamed or past games downloaded. Make it look great on iPads and other tablets with access to everything but keep the actual content managed by Google preferably.
So what follows after we get more details on these networks? What is Scott’s next move? Well he did say the digital network would be fully internationally available. Scott has always proclaimed that he believes he can get a lot of value for the conference out of Asia and also Europe. He seems to stress the Asia part because they do have a growing superpower economy in China that will remain a world economic leader for as long as most of us can imagine and he loves to say that the West coast region is the gateway to the East. But how much do the Chinese really care about football you say. True, the Chinese and other Asian cultures tend to really enjoy the Olympic sports but recently basketball has also become big business. Apparently this was helped a lot by Yao Ming having a high profile career. I know Nike has been selling basketball gear in China like hotcakes for more than a few years now. It has become a major market for them and one they are increasingly excited about.
It remains to be seen how much they will be drawn to a U.S. level of love for college football, but I believe if you expose someone to something they start to check it out and in time the following does indeed build. They just have rarely had the option before. That won’t be the case anymore and I think the Pac-12 North vs Pac-12 South divisions will fit the imagination of a huge country like China.
So how much do you buy into this Ring of Fire stuff? Are you a believer that long term this will be the key to us having more potential than any other conference in America? That billions in the Far East will be more drawn to us than say the SEC because of relative proximity? I think it will help us and Scott is definitely the man to figure out how to unlock significant value for the conference overseas. Scott does want to make another run at a Pac-16 in the second half of this decade and if he proves he can garner plenty of Asian eyeballs and secure additional substantial revenue streams for the future then it will make the choice of our targeted teams all the easier.