The Pac-12 Networks, a combination of one national and six regional outlets, will launch Wednesday, giving the West's premier college sports conference a huge boost in media exposure and its athletic programs a lucrative source of funding.
This is the first year of a 12-year, $3-billion television deal for the Pac-12 Conference, Fox and ESPN.
The first show, at 6 p.m. PDT, is "Pac-12 Live," which in its hourlong debut will offer a primer about the networks and include segments about the upcoming football season and the contributions of Pac-12 athletes and coaches at the Olympics.
After that, another hourlong show will offer a conference-wide football preview.
The inaugural live broadcast — the first of 850 scheduled this year — will be a nonconference women's soccer game between Stanford and Santa Clara on Friday at 7 p.m. The first live football game will be shown Aug. 30, when Northern Colorado visits Utah for a nonconference game.
Exactly where on the dial the networks can be found, and their cost to subscribers, isn't known at this point because some carriage deals are still being worked on. But here are a few questions with the best answers that can be given at this point:
How can I watch?
If Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox or Bright House is your cable TV provider and you live in a Pac-12 home market — for example, Los Angeles, home of USC and UCLA, or Seattle, home to the University of Washington — the network is part of your basic cable package.
If you subscribe to one of those providers and live within the league's geographical footprint — Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado or Utah — the network should be available as part of a digital-basic package, which, depending on the provider, could carry an additional cost.
And if you subscribe to one of those providers and live elsewhere in the U.S., the network will be available on a sports tier, meaning the provider can either add it to the basic package or make it a separate option.
If you live outside the U.S.? Well, forget it. The Pac-12 Networks are not distributed internationally.
What if I subscribe to DirecTV, Dish, AT&T U-verse, Verizon or others?
That's a tough one to answer at the moment.
Gary Stevenson, president of Pac-12 Enterprises, says the league is "cautiously optimistic" that deals can be made with additional providers. Chief among them is DirecTV, which has about 18 million subscribers nationally. A DirecTV spokesman said the company is in "active discussions" with the Pac-12, though a potential timetable is unclear. If a deal isn't reached by Aug. 29, the day before the college football season kicks off, the prospects of a deal become even more complicated.
If I get the networks, what kind of coverage will be available?
That depends on where you live and the provider. In some cases, you'll be able to get the regional and national network. For example, if you have Time Warner Cable in the L.A. area, you'll be offered the Pac-12 National network as well as the Pac-12 Los Angeles regional network.
If you are uncertain, the Pac-12 offers a "channel finder" at pac-12.org.
Can I get an Internet-only subscription?
No. Not now, and possibly not ever. However, if you subscribe to a provider that has a deal with the Pac-12 Networks, you will have access to the "TV Everywhere" platform, which lets you authenticate your laptop and/or iPad to receive live-stream Pac-12 Networks events online. The league has plans to soon make that option also available for the iPhone and Android.
What are the networks going to show?
Most of the coverage spins off live events, including all football and men's basketball games. You'll also see plenty of Olympic sports.
Leading up to the football season, there will be half-hour-long previews examining each of the conference's 12 teams plus an hourlong preview of the league as a whole. On game nights, there will be pregame, halftime and postgame studio shows. On Sunday night, a show will review that weekend's games. On Tuesday night, there will be a coaches' show. The network will also broadcast football games from years past.
The first Saturday prime-time game is Sept. 1, San Diego State at Washington.
The network's first UCLA football game is Sept. 15, when the Bruins meet Houston. The first USC football game is Sept. 22, when the Trojans face California.
What happens when more than one football game is being played at the same time?
This is expected to happen about five times, all near the beginning of the season. For example, on Sept. 8 Duke visits Stanford at 7:30 p.m., when Oklahoma State is playing at Arizona.
One of those games will air on the regional network that's local to the area where the game is being played. The other game will be carried on the other five regional networks and the national network. When the games end, the coverage switches. Whichever networks carried the live games will air a replay of the other game.
Yes, it's all a little confusing. So, when in doubt, always check with your cable provider to make sure in advance of kickoff that you won't miss the game.
Have comments? The Pac-12 wants to hear them, and questions can be submitted at support.pac-12.org.