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Pac-12 Networks still wants DIRECTV, Charter carriage deals, eyes OTT opportunities

Pac-12Networks has bolstered its carriage with a trio of new pacts, while it continuesto try to fill in holes in its linear distribution roster as a new school year looms.

Ownedby the Pac-12 Conference, Pac-12 Networks — comprised of a primary, national network,Pac-12 Network (US),as well as six sub-regional services, each tied to a pair of member schools — hasinked deals recently with Cox CommunicationsInc., Frontier CommunicationsCorp. and Comcast Corp.

Pac-12Networks' programming portfolio encompasses more than 850 live events, including35 football games, more than 100 basketball contests, 300 Olympic sports competitionsand conference championship action.

LydiaMurphy-Stephans, president of Pac-12 Networks, said in an interview that the networkoperator is continuing to push for deals with AT&T Inc.'s  DIRECTVunit and Charter Communications Inc.,while exploring opportunities with various over-the-top providers.She noted that the start of another academic year and a new football season representsthe "sweet spot" in terms of carriage negotiations,

SNL Image
Pac-12 Networks President Lydia Murphy-Stephans
Source: Pac-12 Networks

A dealwith either DIRECTV or Charter has eluded Pac-12 Networks since their channels launchedAug. 15, 2012. Following AT&T's purchase of DIRECTV in July 2015, the DBS providerreportedly tested theprogrammer's signal. However, negotiations reportedly broke down over AT&T wantingto securean equity position in Pac-12 Networks, lower rates for DIRECTV than other distributors,and campusvideo service rights.

AT&T'sU-verse video service has distributedthe national feed, as well as Pac-12Bay Area (US) and Pac-12Los Angeles (US) since 2013.

Murphy-Stephansdeclined to address why the parties failed to reach an accord last summer, but saidPac-12 Networks continues to have conversations with DIRECTV. AT&T declinedto comment.

Pac-12Networks is also pursuing an accord with Charter, which has a presence in Oregon, Washington, Utah,California and Colorado. Time WarnerCable Inc., which offers all seven Pac-12 services, and were by Charter in May.Murphy-Stephans said that Pac-12 Networks had a "great relationship" withthe old Time Warner Cable management team.

Additionally,under a new arrangement scheduled to go into effect on July 21, Murphy-Stephanssaid the flagship Pac-12 Networks will become available in high-definition on Comcast'sDigital Starter level of service, while the five regionals in its service areas— Pac-12 Bay Area, Pac-12 Mountain(US), Pac-12 Arizona(US), Pac-12 Washington(US) and Pac-12 Oregon(US) — will move to its Sports and Entertainment package.

As forCox, which had been offering the regionals in Arizona and southern California, thecable operator is adding the national Pac-12 feed to its Essential tier in thoseareas. Subscribers can also use the Pac-12 Now TV Everywhere service app to accessall seven networks.

The programmeris adding some 500,000 subscribers in southern California through a deal with Frontier,which in April picked up Verizon CommunicationsInc. customers after it completeda $10.54 billion acquisition of the telco's local landline assets, operations andbusinesses in the Golden State, Florida and Texas.

Frontier,which distributes the national feed and Pac-12 Oregon and Pac-12 Washington in thenorthwest, will offer the primary service on its Preferred tier in the Los Angelesarea and on its Extreme tier in Palm Springs, Calif.

Meanwhile,Pac-12 Networks is also exploring alternate carriage opportunities.

"Thedemand for sports viewing on digital and OTT is growing significantly. We are evaluatingall opportunities with newer forms of distribution," Murphy-Stephans said,mentioning services from Amazon.comInc. and Hulu LLC,as well as virtual MSO FuboTV.

Askedspecifically about Sling TV, the streaming service offered by DISH Network Corp. which distributes the national feed, Murphy-Stephans said "wethink the Sling packages are very interesting."