Jon Wilner, who writes for the San Jose Mercury News, has done a splendid job of covering the dispute between the Pac 12 Network and DIRECTV since the regional sports channel’s launch in 2012.  So it should be no surprise that the Bay Area scribe has uncovered the real reasons why DIRECTV has never carried the channel.

In an article published yesterday, Wilner reveals he tracked down Derek Chang, DIRECTV’s former executive vice president for content strategy, and a main player in the early carriage negotiations between the satcaster and the Pac 12 Network.

Chang, and other industry sources, tell Wilner that DIRECTV decided not to carry the channel , which airs Pac 12 football and basketball games as well as other conference sports, for two major reasons:

1. Cost
While the Pac 12 Network has secured carriage deals with other major providers such as Dish and Comcast, DIRECTV in 2012 was determined to reduce its program acquisition costs which had skyrocketed in recent years. So the satcaster was an unenthusiastic participant in the negotiations from the start. (Stemming rising programming costs remains a priority at DIRECTV, and AT&T, which now owns the satcaster.)

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In addition, unlike cable operators, DIRECTV did not have the means to offer the Pac 12 Network’s multiple feeds of games by region because it’s a national service. (The channel has six different regional feeds as well as a national signal.) Consequently, the article states, DIRECTV would have been forced to offer all seven feeds, which would have increased the cost of carriage.

Note: Dish had a similar issue here, but DIRECTV’s satellite rival has more subscribers on the West Coast which justified the cost of carry the Pac 12 Network. (Dish also used carriage of the Pac 12 Network as a promotional weapon against DIRECTV.)

2. Lack of Exclusivity
Some of the Pac 12 Network’s games are broadcast by other channels such as ESPN so DIRECTV felt it could avoid significant subscriber defections if it did not carry it. DIRECTV’s Pac 12 fans would not miss the conference’s premiere match ups if they subscribed to other sports channels that aired them. (This has been an important point for DIRECTV over the years. The satcaster frequently reminds subscribers that Pac 12 games can be found on channels it does carry. )

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Despite various attempts to resolve their differences since 2012, the basic issues of cost and exclusivity continue to be sticking points for DIRECTV and AT&T. In fact, Wilner quotes one industry source as saying it’s not likely that DIRECTV will ever carry the Pac 12 Network.

— Phillip Swann