Q. I am a big fan of UCLA, particularly its football team. But my TV service, which is DIRECTV, doesn’t carry the Pac 12 Network, which carries a lot of UCLA sports. My question to you: Will DIRECTV every carry the Pac 12 Network, or do I need to switch to another TV service? — Peter, Los Angeles.
See an update at the bottom of this feature.
Peter, as you know, the Pac 12 Network airs football and basketball games as well as other sports played by teams in the conference. The sports channel launched in 2012.
While the Pac 12 Network has secured carriage deals with other major TV providers such as Dish, U-verse and Comcast, DIRECTV is determined to reduce its program acquisition costs which have skyrocketed in recent years.
In addition to the Pac 12 Network, the satcaster has refused to carry SportsNet LA, which has the exclusive rights to air Los Angeles Dodgers games in the LA market. (SportsNet LA launched in 2014.)
Stemming rising programming costs remains a priority at DIRECTV, and AT&T, which now owns the satcaster. So six years later after launch, DIRECTV still does not carry the Pac 12 Network despite a handful of occasions when the two parties seemed to flirt with a resolution.
But there may be a new development that could finally bring the sides together.
U-verse, which AT&T also owns, could soon lose the Pac 12 Network if it does not sign a new carriage deal with the channel.
The current carriage pact between U-verse and the Pac 12 Network expires in August so it’s possible the companies are talking now. And since AT&T also negotiates carriage deals for DIRECTV, any discussions regarding U-verse would undoubtedly also include the satellite service. (Note: AT&T’s U-verse signed its carriage pact with the Pac 12 Network prior to the telco’s merger with DIRECTV.)
Now that doesn’t mean AT&T will negotiate a new pact for both U-verse and DIRECTV, and perhaps its live streaming service, DIRECTV Now, as well. The telco might decide to let the Pac 12 Network go completely when the current U-verse contract ends in August.
But the U-verse deadline could be an opportunity for AT&T and the Pac 12 Network to reexamine their relationship and strike a wider carriage agreement that would include AT&T’s entire suite of TV services.
Peter, there are no guarantees here, but I think we’ll learn more in the next month or so.
Update: Jon Wilner, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, writes this week that sources tell him that AT&T is expected to ‘walk away’ from the Pac 12 Network when the current contract expires next month. That would mean neither U-verse or DIRECTV would carry the channel after August, if not sooner.
“I guess you never know, but my assumption is that they’re each going their own way,’’ one source said, according to Wilner.
Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott said yesterday that he does not expect any changes to the DIRECTV blackout situation for the 2018 season. He did not address the U-verse agreement.
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— Phillip Swann