SiriusXM is creating channels for the Pac-12, ACC and SEC. Is it DirecTV? Nope. Is it something? Actually, it’s more than something.
Three weeks ago, the conference announced the creation of the SiriusXM Pac-12 Radio channel. The news was light on details — actually, it was without details — and many specifics remain in TBD mode.
But the development is significant enough to Pac-12 fans that I’ve decided to publish what we know, even if holes remain and the project is weeks, if not months away from launch.
Above all, it’s a triple-victory: A win for the conference, a win for the schools and a win for the fans.
As many know, those stars do not often align in the Pac-12 world.
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It took the conference no time to accept the SiriusXM offer when executives broached the idea with Pac-12 officials last spring. (SiriusXM is also creating conference-branded channels for the ACC and SEC.)
“We said absolutely,’’ recalled deputy commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who helped coordinate the Pac-12 side of the project. (As we’ll explain, Sirius is leading the way on numerous fronts.)
“It’s phenomenal exposure,” he continued. “It was an opportunity for us to be on a leading national provider in an interesting space. Their user base tracks well with our fans and demographics.”
That SiriusXM user base is “more than 32 million,” according to the company’s website.
It’s unclear exactly what percentage of that subscriber total will have access to the Pac-12 channel. Some legacy equipment (i.e., prior to the Sirius-XM merger) doesn’t receive all channels available through the rebranded company.
That issue, from what I can gather, is the reason the original news release from the Pac-12 indicated the channel would be available “on select SiriusXM satellite radios.” (It will be channel 373, by the way.)
That same news release, from Dec. 18, said the channel would launch early in 2018.
Let’s revise the timeframe to early-ish 2018. It will be some point in the first quarter, according to Zaninovich.
The process is fluid, in part, because of the complicated nature of the partnership.
Unlike the television rights to live Pac-12 events, which are owned by the conference (and sold to ESPN and Fox), the radio rights are owned by the schools (and sold to their multimedia partners, which also handle sponsorships).
The football and men’s basketball games are already on the radio — not only on local stations but also, in some cases, on SiriusXM, which picks up local feeds from schools across the country.
A conference-branded channel relying on programming that’s not actually owned by the conference creates contractual and licensing challenges.
For that reason, Sirius, not the conference, is working directly with the campuses and the multimedia rights-holders to piece this thing together.
That process includes the approach to broadcasting overlapping events: If two basketball games tip at 7 p.m., which one is aired on the SiriusXM Pac-12 channel?
Zaninovich said Sirius executives have promised the conference and the campuses “equity” in programming decisions.
To that evolving situation, add the task of creating the non-event programming.
The daily framework will be fairly standard, with talk shows during morning and evening drive-time and live events at night (and in the afternoon when possible).
The talk shows will have significant call-in component, which is great for fan engagement but has the potential to turn shows into complaint departments. (See: night games, officiating, Pac-12 Networks distribution, officiating and, um, officiating.)
The live events will focus on football and men’s basketball, but not at the exclusion of the Olympic sports: There will be a mix, but it sounds like the two majors will be the prime drivers, which they should be and must be.
Look for the conference to make maximum possible use of Pac-12 Networks content and talent, with its analysts appearing not only on the Pac-12 channel but also other SiriusXM channels.
And it could work both ways, with SiriusXM national broadcasters appearing on the Pac-12 channel and discussing Pac-12 topics on their own shows more frequently than they have.
It’s also a potential platform for Pac-12 coaches to reach recruits and, to a greater extent, fans.
(In theory, the recruits are in school during morning and afternoon talk shows.)
All in all, there should be a meaningful uptick in exposure for the Pac-12.
Is it DirecTV? Nope. Is it something? Actually, it’s more than something.