Oregon State athletic department personnel have been busy preparing for the imminent launch of the Pac-12 Networks.
Steve Fenk, the associate athletic director for communications, assisted the transition for OSU with the Pacific-12 Conference.
He braced his staff for the changes, including added work to provide content for the many television shows and events for the networks.
“It’s really amazing, and people are going to be impressed,” Fenk said. “I’m sure there are going to be glitches to start out with, but it’s going to be awesome for us — for small schools like us. We’ll be on TV more than most of the schools in the country. This is blowing by the SEC and Big Ten networks. It’s blowing by them like they are standing still.”
The Pac-12 Networks launches Aug. 15 with one national network and six regional — Pac-12 Oregon, Pac-12 Washington, Pac-12 Mountain, Pac-12 Southern California, Pac-12 Northern California and Pac-12 Arizona.
The national network is expected to be available to about 40 million homes at the start and then grow. Sharing between the networks will be able to fill time 24 hours a day.
Comcast Cable will be the main carrier in Oregon. Other providers such as DirecTV and Dish Network, have not reached agreements with the Pac-12 yet.
The numbers on the dial for Pac-12 Oregon and the national network are still being determined. Coverage of OSU events on ROOT Sports will end.
All on-air programming will now go through the Pac-12, with the exception of two national football games a week, one each by ABC/ESPN and FOX.
The first step for all the schools was to bolster their digital infrastructure for the speed and power of the TV broadcasts from all sports areas on campus.
Reser Stadium was already up to the needed level, but power was boosted for Goss Stadium and the ability to broadcast from the soccer field was needed.
“The positive thing is we are among the top couple in the Pac-12 in having our infrastructure built,” Fenk said. “The technical team from Pac-12 Enterprises has been here twice. They are constantly working with IT people and engineers on campus.”
The Pac-12 gave each school a budget for improvements once all of them were inspected. One thing OSU added was a portable studio in Gill Coliseum so interviews can be sent to the Pac-12 production crew in San Francisco.
OSU must beam raw video with interviews, shows and behind-the-scenes looks to San Francisco and the Pac-12 will splice it all together.
All the conference’s football and men’s basketball games will be shown live, at least regionally first. Then they’ll be replayed the following week on the national network during off hours.
“It’s just huge for us in Oregon State athletics,” Fenk said. “It puts us on equal footing as UCLA and USC. We’ll have as many games (broadcast) as they have. It’s huge for recruiting. It’s huge for the university as an infomercial since 10 percent of the programs will be about the school itself — our research facility, our Linus Pauling Science Center or whatever.”
The Pac-12’s commitment to the Olympic sports fill out air time. At least 80 women’s basketball games will be shown live, compared to the 10 or so in recent years, Fenk said.
Each school will have 40-45 Olympic sports-specific shows produced each year. Soccer games and gymnastics meets will be broadcast.
“Olympic sports, this is off the charts,” Fenk said. “This will revolutionize sports TV. This is so huge. The coverage for softball, volleyball and soccer will get will be astronomical from before.”
There was a concern about the game schedules being spread out during the school week, but Fenk said there won’t be much change from the late in the week-weekend schedule. The concern of missed class moderated schedule changes.
Some games will still stream live on the Internet through Beaver Nation Online since not all Olympic sports games will be on TV. Fenk expects those games to go through the Pac-12 website now.
The online component is the last piece to be figured out, Fenk said, since the audience is so small with the exception of baseball.
One of the main reasons for the Olympic sports push is the Pac-12 Networks are not ratings driven. The money is already set aside to produce these events through the contract with the cable providers through 2024.
That helps the OSU football team, too, since the Beavers are not a ratings draw due to a small fan base compared to UCLA or Washington and wouldn’t be picked for TV over Arizona State or USC because there are more viewers in the Phoenix and Los Angeles markets.
Fall schedules are expected to be announced at the end of next week, along with other details of the network launch.
The first month’s football TV schedule should be out by then. The rest of the season’s kickoff times will be announced close to the games like before as the three national networks pick the top matchups and the regional networks get the rest.
“There are so many moving parts, every day it’s something different,” Fenk said. “It’s exciting for people who are Oregon State fans. You can watch the TV Tuesday morning and find something Oregon State.”