The PAC-10 has a contract with ABC for over-the-air coverage with some games on ESPN. The contract calls for 20 telecast windows and 6-8 of those windows can be national telecasts on ESPN. By allowing games on ESPN, the conference can have a few games scheduled on Thursday nights or part of Labor Day or Thanksgiving Friday coverage if it desires. When ABC televises a game at 3:30pm it is exclusive and no other PAC-10 game is available for telecast at that time. The PAC-10 contract with ABC is a five year contract and will end after the 2011 football season. ABC and ESPN can concurrently televise games, but this is the only scenario where ABC can coexist with a PAC-10 cable broadcaster. ABC also televises a fair number of PAC-10 games in their 8pm ET/5pm PT telecast slot, often on split telecast windows.
FSN is the pay-tv rightsholder for the conference and has national rights to 18 telecast windows. FSN sells off five telecast windows per season to Versus and keeps thirteen windows. In the early part of the decade, the five games that FSN has sold off to Versus belonged to TBS and before that they were syndicated on over-the-air networks in the PAC-10 footprint.
The games not chosen for national telecast revert back to the individual schoold to sell for regional telecast. Many of the regional rights holders are affiliates of FSN, but some are not:
- FSN Northwest: Oregon St., Washington St., Washington
- Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket: UCLA and USC
- Fox Sports Arizona: Arizona St.
- CSN Bay Area/California: California and Stanford
- Oregon Sports Network: Oregon
- Arizona Wildcasts Sports Network: Arizona
One item missing from the PAC-10, particularly with the FSN and Versus games, is an accompanying webstream of the game. The ABC/ESPN games are often accompanied by an ESPN360 stream. Accoring to the FSN contract press release, FSN has new media rights, but it is unclear whether they can stream games live.
One of the interesting things about the PAC-10 is that they often have at least 50% of their ABC/ESPN and FSN/Versus telecasts chosen before mid-June. ABC/ESPN has to provide the conference the games the will televise and telecast windows where there will be a 6-12 day window selection by May 1st before the forthcoming season. FSN and Versus must then choose their game telecasts and selection windows before June 1st.
FSN also appears to have the ability to select specific games ahead of ABC. For example, the USC-UCLA game can be locked in for an FSN telecast one time every four seasons and was locked in for 2009.
As their contract is now at the halfway point, questions have risen as to where the PAC-10 should go next. The FSN portion of the television side continues to be derided and new commissioner Larry Scott, formerly of the WTA tour, has been given the charge of raising the conference profile. Rumors have come out about the conference partnering with the ACC to create some form of east coast-west coast network to try to increase the number of national telecasts. Others want to move more telecasts from FSN over to ESPN.
Whatever the PAC-10 decides to do, it will be interesting if it does indeed raise the profile of the conference east of the Mississippi beyond late night telecasts and the perception of USC and nine other schools.