Cougs' spring game on TV -- but not DirecTV

THIS SPRING WILL mark a broadcasting milestone at Washington State. Only two years ago some WSU football games weren't even on TV. Now, not only will every WSU game again be televised for the second year in a row, the Washington State spring game will be on television for the first time. Imagine, watching the Cougs' spring game on TV! Unless of course, you have DirecTV. Then you're out of luck.

The Pac-12 Networks has made the above possible. They're the ones who televised 35 Pac-12 football games the other broadcasting partners didn't in 2012. They broadcast something like 135 mens' basketball games this season. They're the ones who will televise all 12 of the conference's spring football games in the coming weeks, including Washington State's on April 20 at 2:00 p.m.

They're also the ones who will be televising, this week, seven of the eight Pac-12 basketball tournament games in the first and second rounds, and 8-of-11 overall.

And they're the ones who still can't get a deal with DirecTV.

IN CARRIAGE DISPUTES like this one, both sides are often at fault. But DirecTV seems to shoulder most of the blame in this case. Their bellicose language directed at the Pac-12 Networks in an attempt to make them the bad guy in the eyes of consumers also seems particularly transparent and off-base.

DirecTV wants a deal that benefits them more than every other broadcast partner (50-plus) who have reached an agreement with the Pac-12. They want to as offer it as a separate channel and not in a programming bundle. That would enable them to offer their customers the Pac-12 Networks for an additional, separate monthly fee, and to pay less to the Pac-12.

The Pac-12 has, rightly, stuck to their guns. Giving DirecTV a sweetheart deal would not only cause every other partner to, rightly, strenuously object, it would decrease the reach for the Pac-12 on the satellite channel. The average DirecTV customer already pays nearly $100/mo. for their service, and many just can't/won't add to an already expensive bill.

DirecTV and others over the past year are starting to struggle in net gain subscribers – the sign-up numbers aren't bad but more and more, growth is being diminished because customers are switching -- not only to traditional competitors but also to online alternatives, like a combination of Hulu Plus and Netflix. The evolution of Apple TV, Amazon Prime and Verizon-Redbox's streaming service is expected to further alter the landscape in the near future.

But what none of the online programmers can offer at this point are the variety of sports programming available on traditional services. If you want the Pac-12 Networks, or ESPN, you must have a TV provider. That might change several years down the road but for now, you can't cut the cord if you still want to watch the Cougs from someplace other than Martin Stadium.

SO WHEN WILL DIRECTV and the Pac-12 Networks come to an agreement? When will the 20 million DirecTV subscribers get to watch the Cougar games on the Pac-12 Networks? There's no new news on that front, according to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott this past week.

Any agreement would seem unlikely until probably late-August, when the specter of a second lost Pac-12 football season looms brightest. And even then, there's certainly no guarantee – the vast majority of the TV media believed a deal would get done last year by the time the season started or shortly thereafter.

DirecTV says they haven't felt enough pressure from their base or experienced the loss of enough customers to make them change their minds yet. And so on it goes.

Spring football games and a handful of Pac-12 tourney games aren't going to move the DirecTV needle much. That won't happen until football season. But March and April sure will be nice for crimson loyalists whoe have other carriers. The Cougs' spring game on TV -- who would have thought that would ever happen just a few short years ago.

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