For years, fans in Southern Arizona have been able to watch nearly every Arizona basketball game on television as long as they had access to local channels and regional sports networks.
But fans with DirecTV service won't be able to watch 11 Wildcat games this season if a negotiation impasse between the satellite provider and the Pac-12 Networks continues. (Cox, Comcast and Dish Network subscribers have access to the Pac-12 Networks, however).
One of the conference's landmark media rights changes this season is that the Pac-12 Networks has generally taken over basketball games that were either not televised or covered by local channels and regional sports networks, which for UA was Channel 58 and Fox Sports Arizona.
As of now, the Pac-12 Networks is scheduled to televise 11 UA basketball games, including the Wildcats' opener Sunday against Charleston Southern. The Wildcats' other 19 regular-season games will be televised on channels in the ESPN and Fox families, which are widely available.
While DirecTV and the Pac-12 Networks have made public statements about the impasse since the beginning of football season, each firmly drawing a line in the sand, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the Star that pressure could pick up with basketball season now under way because of the high number of games scheduled to be televised.
That could be ironic, considering that football drove the conference's expansion and media rights plans, but the Pac-12 Networks will televise 150 games that include at least 11 for each team.
Cumulatively, they could create a lot of demand.
"I've heard from a lot of fans and a lot of others that if DirecTV doesn't pick up Pac-12 basketball, they will switch," Scott said. "Once fans realize how many basketball games are going to be on Pac-12 Networks … my sense is we're going to see a lot of activity."
The Pac-12 Networks is seeking a reported 90 cents per subscriber within the conference footprint-probably much less for subscribers elsewhere - and while neither side would confirm the conference's asking price, DirecTV has indicated the Pac-12 is asking for an amount that would result in too much of a price increase for subscribers who don't want it.
DirecTV officials would not comment but issued this statement at the Star's request:
"We have the same passion for sports as the most loyal fans and want to add Pac-12 Network's football and basketball games, but we have not joined other providers in accepting Pac-12's high price for two simple reasons: We can't allow our customers to absorb increases well beyond the nominal annual adjustments we make to their monthly bills, and we strongly believe when the price tag is too high, our customers must have a choice of whether they want to pay for it or not.
"Unfortunately, Pac-12 doesn't see it that way and has been withholding games from its most loyal supporters to force everyone to pay a grossly inflated price. Despite Pac-12's take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums, we remain willing to work toward something that's reasonable for all families. The ball is in Pac-12's court."
Scott indicated the Pac-12 has tried to advance talks.
"Our folks reach out regularly but they're not changing their posture that's been the status quo for weeks now and, as a result, we've not been optimistic," Scott said. "We know there's a fair value proposition as evidenced by the fact that 45 cable providers and Dish Network have agreed to it."
While DirecTV has withstood the pressure this fall from several high profile football games it missed that were carried on the Pac-12 Networks, Scott said basketball season brings a different dynamic.
Not only are there more games on television but fans already know the entire season's television schedule - and what they could miss. In football, networks often aren't assigned until shortly before the games.
While Scott said he's heard concerns from basketball fans all over the conference, the Wildcats are known for their particularly passionate basketball following, putting Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne in a unique situation.
"Fans need to continue to put pressure on DirecTV," Byrne said Wednesday via text message. "People exploring other options may be the only thing that gets them to react."
On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog at azstarnet.com/pascoe
Pac-12 TV schedule
Arizona basketball games to be carried on Pac-12 Networks, which are currently accessible in Tucson only on Cox, Comcast and Dish Network:
• Sunday: Charleston Southern, 4 p.m.
• Nov. 19: Long Beach State, 7 p.m.
• Nov. 28: Northern Arizona, 8 p.m.
• Dec. 4: Southern Mississippi, 7:30 p.m.
• Dec. 18: Oral Roberts, 7 p.m.
• Jan. 5: Utah, 3 p.m.
• Feb. 2: at Washington State, 8 p.m.
• Feb. 10: California, 5 p.m.
• Feb. 14: at Colorado, 8 p.m.
• Feb. 17 at Utah, 1 p.m.
• March 2: at USC, 7:30 p.m.
• Who: Charleston Southern at Arizona, season opener
• When: 4 p.m. Sunday
• TV: Pac-12 Network
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM