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  • Pac-12 TV to offer more coverage, for the lucky few

  • If there's a theme to Year 2 of the Pac-12 Networks, it's "more."
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  • If there's a theme to Year 2 of the Pac-12 Networks, it's "more."
    The Pac-12 is increasing the number of live events on its second-season schedule from 550 to 750. It's upping its "shoulder" programming from 150 to 200 hours. It's coming up with new ways to differentiate its six regional networks from one another.
    "We set the bar so high last year, and we reached it," Lydia Murphy-Stephans, president of the Pac-12 Networks, said.
    So where do you go from here?
    "For me, as a manager, it's to set the bar even higher," Murphy-Stephans said.
    "One area we need to work on is spreading the word (about the networks). And, of course, increasing distribution."
    Oh yeah. That.
    With the start of football season less than two months away, the Pac-12 still doesn't have carriage agreements with DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS or Charter. It's an inescapable fact — you just can't write a column about the Pac-12 Networks without mentioning it — and a continuing source of frustration for conference executives and fans. It's where the theme of "more" runs into a dead end.
    "I wish I could say the conversations were fruitful and we're ready to go," Murphy-Stephans said when asked specifically about DirecTV, the second-biggest multichannel video provider in the Los Angeles market, which includes Orange County.
    "The reality is, I'm not optimistic."
    The best hope for subscribers to DirecTV and the other holdouts is that they'll feel pressure to get something done as football season gets closer. (AT&T and the Pac-12 reportedly agreed on the framework of a deal in early May, but the agreement had yet to materialize as of early July.) UCLA makes its first appearance on the Pac-12 Networks on Aug. 31 against Nevada, USC on Sept. 14 against Boston College. The Pac-12 Networks have 35 football games on their fall schedule in all.
    "We won't stop trying," Murphy-Stephans said. "We really would love to have a carriage deal with DirecTV. We'll do our best. We just can't change our business model to meet someone's needs when we already have done a comfortable deal (with others)."
    Other highlights from my conversation with Murphy-Stephans:
    The three sports that will see the biggest bump in live-event coverage in 2013-14 are baseball, softball and women's basketball.
    The Pac-12 is striving for increased access to the league's football programs this fall. Two new shows are in the works, including a "Hard Knocks"-style, behind-the-scenes documentary series that will follow two teams throughout the season. The Pac-12 hired renowned sports documentarian Michael Tolajian to oversee the project. The participating schools are expected to be announced at or around the time of the conference's July 26 media day.
    A year ago at this time, Murphy-Stephans was six weeks away from launching seven new networks. It was a nerve-racking experience, even for someone who had helped launch the cable network Oxygen. "The biggest challenge was our race against time," said Murphy-Stephans, who joined the Pac-12 Networks in November 2011. "We took a very fast-track approach to launching the networks. We wanted to make sure they were up and running and delivering content to fans before football season started last year. It was a monster project. I wasn't comfortable saying this last year, but we had no margin for error. If one thing went awry, it would have crippled our opportunity to launch successfully."
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