Pac-12 Network’s 10th anniversary brings an awareness of why it ultimately failed

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August 15, 2012. This was the first day on which Pac-12 Network programming was beamed to American television viewers.

A 10th anniversary reflects a certain degree of longevity and would therefore normally be celebrated in the television and media spheres. However, the Pac-12 Network’s 10th anniversary does not merit celebration. It is and has been exceptional in bad ways more than good.

To be sure, the network has done some good. It has promoted Olympic sports and women’s basketball. It has convinced a lot of athletes who grew up in the Pac-12’s geographical footprint to stay in the West for Olympic sports and women’s hoops. The Pac-12 has grown in strength, depth and quality as a women’s basketball conference, and that certainly ought to be celebrated.

Yet, in terms of making money for the conference, burnishing the league’s overall national reputation, and — centrally — boosting the football profile and track record of the conference, the Pac-12 Network has fallen far short.

USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten offer powerful and central proof of the Pac-12 Network’s failures.

To mark this 10th anniversary, The Athletic unrolled an oral history of the network.

There are many layers of the onion to peel away. Let’s start with this foundational point made by former Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, who had previously worked at another conference-specific entity, the Big Ten Network:

“I was really unsure about (the model), to be honest with you, because I had participated in the distribution effort for Big Ten Network with a major media company partner in Fox, and had we not had Fox as a partner, I’m not sure we would have achieved full distribution for Big Ten Network.”

The instability and lack of heft possessed by the Pac-12 Network contain multiple root sources. This is certainly one of them. Aligning with ESPN — more precisely, allowing ESPN to run the Pac-12 Network in exchange for larger and more pervasive distribution, with football and men’s basketball being the centerpieces — was not what Larry Scott wanted.

If the Pac-12 Network had chosen alignment with ESPN — either in 2012, when it was born, or in 2018, when the conference had a chance to reconsider its position — USC and UCLA would not have moved to the Big Ten. That central TV partner is something the network always lacked.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire