Pac-12 Officially Adds Utah, Colorado. Is Hulu, Google Or Apple Next?

  • Dave Levy

The following stats will be relevant to this discussion:

– During the two-plus weeks of the 2010 Vancouver games, attracted 46m unique users and streamed about 3.3m hours of video content to those visitors (source). Some of us around here spent plenty of time analyzing the Winter Olympics before, after and during those games. (No information is available about how many of those hours were caused by me watching Curling, but I assume many.)

– Before the season, MLB boasted that it passed the one billion (with a b) video streams mark on the platform. That’s within the first three years of the service. That’s not shabby.

– ESPN3 comes with your cable package if you are on one of the big providers in the country, estimated to reach some 65 million homes. That doesn’t leave that many people out of the loop, plus you can plug in through even more channels like the WatchESPN app.

We watch sports online. We watch clips of the notable or funny sports things we missed online, like, all the time. (See, say, SportsGrid Video). But those videos started somewhere else. They were broadcast first by people who put them on TV and cable channels from where we cap them – then we get them to you.

But what if an entire league or, say, college athletics conference just skipped that middle broadcast outlet? It just might happen – and change more than just west coast football along the way.

The Pac-12 (officially as of today!) is shopping the rights around for whom would carry its games. The conference has a pretty serious disadvantage to its Southeastern, Atlantic-Coasted and Midwestern counterparts: primetime means late night to most of the football watching world. They weren’t going to get the record setting deals that the SEC, Big”Ten” and ACC got. It’s not that ESPN or its current partner in Fox Sports don’t want the now 12-team league, it’s just that the price tag isn’t as high since 1/3 less of the games (i.e., they aren’t going to start games at 9 am local time) are available to for national, non-cable nets.

As Dr. Saturday first picked up (followed closely by the hilariously lampooning, “Did you mean…” search parody from EDSBS), the Pac-12 may be in a position to try something a little bit different, given their situation: skip TV all together.

The Pac-12 would opt against the traditional subscription-TV model and become the first conference to create an internet-based network.

Instead of teaming up with Time Warner or Comcast, the league would align with Google or Apple.

Instead of turning on your television to watch the Pac-12 Network, you’d turn on your computer (or tablet or mobile phone).

We’re getting really used to watching sports online, and if there’s an opportunity to blaze a little into the territory completely, the Pac-12 may be in the best position to do it. Not only do they have the right footprint (something called the “Silicon Valley” if you know what I’m saying), but something to gain. ByLawBlog thinks the shift could cause something more – and I think he’s right:

Let’s say things keep going the way they are. I already can watch all of ESPN on my cell phone, and the picture is in HD or close-enough-to-HD on any of the offerings described above around the Olympics or MLB. I can plug my computer into a very large TV without a problem. Honestly – live sports are just about the only thing driving me to keep cable at my new apartment; if I could subscribe to a web only version of NESN to watch the Sox, I’d cut the TV cord and do it in a heart beat).

Sure, the Pac-12 is focusing on welcoming Utah and Colorado today. Soon enough, though, we’ll know if they are also going to invite Apple, Hulu or Google to join the growing conference as well.

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