Larry Scott has everyone abuzz. He's got a forward-thinking attitude, the resume as the former CEO of the Women's Tennis Association and a rebranded Pac-12 that officially added two new members last Friday. It all works great with the whole West Coast attitude.
After all, out there (not in this media capitol called New York City in which I'm situated currently -- the feel here is one made of people who'd rather go out for drinks than do work, but that's another story) where Google and Facebook have created this connectivity boom. But for the sports world it's much of the same; Scott believes this whole "frontier" of a land is also a frontier for innovation.
That said, all these hyped-up ideas need time to marinate, to develop. What Scott may be saying now could be far from perfect in even a year. Do you keep it simple, as Alex Williams at the Arizona Daily Wildcat writes? Or do you plan for change, even if things might not go as planned.
So far, we only know that the Pac-12 just got a lot richer -- $2.7 billion over the course of 12 years, to be exact. After that, we don't know exactly what the model will look like, other than the league is looking to partner with someone like Google or Apple to create a totally web-based network.
According to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner (who is my new favorite Pac-12 beat writer, by the way), there's a couple options to make waves in getting the Pac-12 network out to people and fast. The first? Purchase a current channel and rebrand it completely, which is apparently what Oprah's kingdom of a media company did with Discovery Health. From the newspaper:
This model would eliminate distribution risk for the conference -- it would gain instant access to a channel that's already in 30-40 million homes, at minimum.
But such an arrangement would almost certainly force the conference to give up an equity stake in the Pac-12 Network. Whichever programmer it teams with, would want a cut of the profits.
The Pac-12 could create a completely new network as well.
The league has held discussions with Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, according to sources.
Comcast has experience on the production end through its Regional Sports Networks, such as Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
The third option is the riskiest but the most interesting. Like Alex Williams wrote in the Daily Wildcat, partnering with an internet-savvy company and going strictly online assumes that TV is indeed moving toward being internet-provided.
The drawback to this approach would be the loss of short-term revenue -- potentially tens of millions of dollars per year -- that comes from subscription fees.
But because of the 12-year, $250 million annual deal with Fox and ESPN, the conference has the financial flexibility to choose a network structure that best suit its long-term needs.
Partnering with Google or Apple would be a gamble on the next generation of technology -- that in three or five years, the internet will be widely accessed through big screen, high-definition televisions.
Of course, a 12-year deal with TV companys gives this option time to work itself out, invest a little in how to do this if television goes this direction as anticipated and see what happens. Twelve years seems like a reasonable amount to time to work toward this possibility sooner rather than later.
Nobody else is doing it. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be seriously considered.
Earlier today, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg announced the Facebook/Skype video chat application just days after Google announced its Facebook challenger in Google +. I watched Zuckerberg announce his release live, and he discussed the exponentially, yet-nearly mathematical rate of technological development.
In short, technology will continue to better itself at this rapid pace, meaning we won't know what's to come in 12 years when this mega-TV deal ends (let alone what our phones or computers will be capable of in one year). I say, plan with these industry leaders for the future. If it happens it happens. If it doesn't, at least Scott and company can say they were heady enough to give it a try.
And we can just sign another big-ass TV deal.