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Spat between Pac-12, DirecTV could affect UCLA broadcast

DirecTV subscribers in the L.A. market may not get the UCLA-Houston game Saturday because of the satellite company's ongoing dispute with the Pac-12 Networks.

September 15, 2012|By David Wharton, Los Angeles Times
  • The UCLA-Houston game may not be available to DirecTV subscribers in the L.A. market because of a spat with the Pac-12 Networks.
The UCLA-Houston game may not be available to DirecTV subscribers in the… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

The clock is ticking, and like a lot of Southern California sports fans, Gary Price is growing anxious.

For weeks, the Glendale resident has heard about stalled negotiations between the Pac-12 Networks and his satellite provider, DirecTV.

This weekend, the stalemate hits home for Price and more than 1 million other viewers in the Los Angeles market. They will not get to watch UCLA play Houston in a game that is being broadcast only by the conference.

The same thing could happen with the USC-California game next weekend.

"Many of us have followed these teams religiously for years," said Price, a Trojans fan who also watches the Bruins. "All of a sudden you take that away? That's not good."

Television viewers have grown accustomed to such squabbles in the cable and satellite universe, favorite channels hanging in the balance as talks stretch to the last second and beyond. In this case, rumors of an impending agreement, floating around since late August, appear to be false.

"The deal with DirecTV has never been imminent," said Gary Stevenson, president of Pac-12 Enterprises.

In the meantime, the conference has signed with more than 40 providers, including Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox and Dish Network. DirecTV and Charter represent the most-notable exceptions in Southern California.

SportsBusiness Journal reported that the Pac-12 is seeking more than 80 cents per subscriber to carry its channels. That's more than CNN, USA and FX and about the same as Disney Channel, according to SNL Kagan, an industry consulting firm. Another person close to the negotiations — but not authorized to speak publicly — said the asking price is significantly lower.

"DirecTV wants Pac-12 fans to have their network, but the Pac-12 Network is denying these same fans the service because they won't offer the channel at a price that's affordable for all DirecTV customers whether they're fans or not," spokesman Robert Mercer said in a statement Friday.

Pac-12 officials cite the deals they have struck with other providers as evidence that they are asking a fair market price.

The situation has grown more contentious in recent days with the conference running full-page newspaper advertisements in Los Angeles, urging DirecTV subscribers to complain.

DirecTV said its customers can watch "the majority of Pac-12 football games featuring the most-popular teams with national title implications" on networks such as ESPN and Fox.

Pac-12 officials disagree. "It doesn't matter if you're an Oregon fan or a Colorado fan," Stevenson said, citing teams at opposite ends of the Bowl Championship Series spectrum. "If it's your team, you want to see all the games."

The conference will broadcast dozens of football games throughout the fall. After that comes more than 70% of the Pac-12 basketball schedule.

With each day that goes by, some Southern California fans are missing out on the action.

"DirecTV and the Pac-12 seem to think we either don't care or will switch providers, neither of which is true," Nancy Ringman of Newport Beach said in an email. "In the meantime, we don't want to miss some great games.... I see both of them as villains in this."

david.wharton@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesWharton

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