Arizona basketball: Pac-10 wants heartier TV

2011-02-24T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T10:00:04Z Arizona basketball: Pac-10 wants heartier TVBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 24, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Just about every weekend is a Derrick Williams kind of weekend for the Arizona Wildcats. But if you live outside of Southern Arizona, you might not know it.

Only those with the power of extended cable and satellite packages, and with the fortitude to navigate the alphabet soup of current UA/Pac-10 basketball media partners, have been able to fully watch this development.

For some games, Williams' athletic array of dunks, blocks and three-pointers may be on Fox Sports Arizona, which is not to be confused with Fox or Fox College Sports, which is called Fox College Sports on satellite, but in fact, has three identities on cable - FCS Pacific, FCS Central and FCS Atlantic.

Then there was Arizona's Rice game on CBS College Sports, which isn't to be confused with the real CBS. And when Williams squared off with fellow national player-of-the-year candidate Jimmer Fredette of BYU in December, because BYU held the rights, that game was on BYUtv.

ESPN2 did pick up two previous Arizona games this season for national broadcast, but it wasn't until Saturday that the Wildcats went live on ESPN for their 87-86 win over Washington, when Williams had 26 points, 11 rebounds and a game-saving blocked shot.

And guess what happened? Williams was named ESPN's national player of the week, illustrating the challenges with the Pac-10's limited coverage.

That's "one of the telltale signs about exposure," UA coach Sean Miller said. "He's had way better weeks than he had last week, and in just as big games. But this time, he was in front of a broader audience."

This week, the Wildcats will go back to normal. Tonight's UA-USC game will be televised locally on Channel 58 (KWBA), but out-of-town folks will have to (maybe) find it on Fox College Sports Pacific or Fox Sports Arizona Plus (which is, of course, not to be confused with Fox Sports Arizona - it will have the game on replay at 11 p.m.)

Saturday's UA-UCLA game is somewhat simpler: It is scheduled to be carried nationally by Fox Sports Arizona and all its regional FSN affiliates, but that doesn't always happen. A random coach's show or NHL replay back east just might bump it off some of the affiliates.

It's a trend that Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and UA athletic director Greg Byrne say they are aware of.

"It's a high priority going forward," Scott said. "We've got some pretty clear goals for increasing the full national exposure for our football and basketball. I've certainly heard from our fan base that they want consistent and broader coverage, so those are our objectives."

The problem is that the Pac-10 remains bound to its current media package through the end of next season, even though Colorado and Utah are being added to the league next season.

The current contract protects national "windows" for selected games on Thursdays and Sundays, and all other games must move outside that window or receive a waiver to get it shown within it.

That often results in Arizona games being shown at off times on Channel 58 and, because of the UA's efforts to make the game available regionally and nationally, on Fox Sports Arizona. (Fox Sports Arizona telecasts are often thrown on one of the FCS channels so extended cable subscribers outside Arizona and New Mexico can see them.)

"We're concerned about it for our fans," Byrne said. "It's not something we'd like for them to have to deal with. But it's kind of what we have to deal with right now. Unfortunately, our hands are tied."

Currently, Scott is negotiating with Fox and ESPN, the Pac-10's two current partners, for a new deal that would start in 2012. By the end of the spring, Scott said, the window will open for them to negotiate with new potential partners, such as Turner or Comcast/NBC.

Here are five things that could affect men's basketball once a new deal is in place:

1. The conference will run the show. Scott said all of the Pac-12 men's basketball and football games will be broadcast in some form, and all will run through the conference office. The games not picked up for national broadcast might be put on a Pac-12 network, and even those on regional networks could be covered by Pac-12 Internet broadcasts. Exclusionary "windows" may be minimized to allow for the widest possible footprint.

"We're centralizing everything," Scott said. "That's probably the most significant change we've made. Historically, the conference has selected the national games, and everything else would reside with the schools. We're making a dramatic change to that model."

2. The schedule won't be as tidy. To find as many national windows - and as much money - as possible, the Pac-12 is expected to move many men's basketball games off the standard Thursday-Saturday format. This could mean the weekends get expanded, as many now are with increasingly popular Sunday night games, or it could mean games earlier in the week.

It might even be necessary for the Wildcats to travel to Oregon State for one game and come back another week to play at Oregon.

"I think that's what we're gonna have to do," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said. "I mean, look at the Big Ten schedule, the SEC schedule. Nobody's had the convenience we've had to play two games on every road trip and two games at home on a weekend.

"It's what made the Pac-10 special, but at the same time, I don't know what kind of formula that's going to be for TV going forward."

The hope is that increased revenues will allow teams to charter flights for midweek games, thus reducing travel and missed class time.

3. There will be a Pac-12 Network. Possibly run with a production partner such as Fox, a new network would allow games not taken by a national provider to be shown in markets potentially all across the nation.

The only issue would be initial distribution, since cable providers east of the Rockies might not be compelled to carry a Pac-12 network if sufficient demand isn't forecasted.

"That's a natural occurrence in the early stages and that's something any network would have to go through," Byrne said. "But because of the passion of the fans in our conference to see us compete" there will be demand.

4. There will be more online. Games not scheduled for national telecast will likely be shown through Pac-12 online channels, showing not only more games but making them available all over the world.

"We've got 2,700 events (in all sports) every year, and it's only a small handful that go on the conference package through an RSN (regional sports network) or school website," Scott said. "We'll have an awful lot on traditional television, but obviously streaming offers an opportunity to produce a lot more events and make them available at a low cost."

5. All games will be available. Even though it's standard with all Arizona basketball games, the conference aims to air all football and men's basketball games in some form.

"We'll have national packages, possibly a Pac-12 network and a conference-driven digital network," Scott said. "We want to do something that's transformative through the conference. Our whole mantra is to position us nationally, not just regionally."

That philosophy is why Miller is looking forward to the future of the Pac-12 and how stars such as Williams will be showcased.

"We're in a very crucial point in terms of Pac-10 basketball, and the one thing I really believe is that all of our coaches are very fortunate to have the leadership from Larry Scott and his team," Miller said. "For our programs to develop, and for our conference to be the best it can be, there has to be a significant change in television in being able to watch Pac-10 basketball at the right times and with the quality production that everyone has become accustomed to watching these days."

Today

• What: Arizona at USC

• When: 8:30 p.m.

• TV: Channel 58

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 12 0 0 1.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 10 0 0 1.000
California 0 0 0 0.000 10 1 0 0.909
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 8 2 0 0.800
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 8 3 0 0.727
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 8 4 0 0.667
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 7 3 0 0.700
USC 0 0 0 0.000 7 4 0 0.636
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 6 5 0 0.545
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 6 3 0 0.667
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 6 3 0 0.667
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 5 6 0 0.455

AP Top 25


Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Oregon State at
Quinnipiac
12/21 52-60
USC at
Boston College
12/21 75-71
San Jose State at
Washington State
12/21 53-82
DePaul at
Colorado
12/22 2:30 pm
UC-Santa Barbara at
Oregon
12/22 7:00 pm
Wisconsin at
California
12/22 7:00 pm
Tulane at
Washington
12/22 9:00 pm
Detroit at
Arizona State
12/23 1:00 pm
Stanford at
Texas
12/23 5:00 pm
South Dakota State at
Utah
12/23 7:00 pm
Arizona at
UNLV
12/23 8:00 pm
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