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Pac-12 ramps up the pressure on DirecTV with clever ad campaign

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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The Pac-12's Arizona-specific ad aimed at getting fans to drop DirecTV (via Pac-12)

The Pac-12 is done playing nice in its efforts to get DirecTV to carry its fledgling network.

Seventeen days before the first Pac-12 football game of the new season and less than three months before the new college hoops season tips off, the Pac-12 has launched an ad campaign designed to turn up the pressure on DirecTV to cave in negotiations. The campaign features clever videos and images designed to show fans what they’re missing if they stick with DirecTV rather than switching to a distributor that carries the two-year-old Pac-12 Network.

For examples, viewers of the network's Oregon-specific commercial are told "These are the types of Ducks you'll see on DirecTV" as video of a mallard duck swimming in a pond plays in the background. Then the narrator tells viewers "These are the types of Ducks you'll see on Pac-12 Network" as the video switches to Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas scoring a touchdown against Oregon State last season.

The message conveyed to fans in the commercials is a clear sign of the bitterness that the stalemate in negotiations between the Pac-12 and DirecTV has fostered. The Pac-12 could have merely urged fans to call and complain to DirecTV, but the league obviously thinks the time for that has passed since it's asking them to switch to another cable or satellite provider altogether.

"We realize this is affecting many of our fans, and we share their frustration," Pac-12 Networks President Lydia Murphy-Stephans said in a statement. "We built the Pac-12 Networks to give fans unprecedented access to their favorite teams and sports on TV, and with just two weeks before the fall sports schedule begins DirecTV continues to deny them that access."

Though the ad campaign from the Pac-12 is a bold move, it's unclear at this point if it will work.

On one hand, Oregon and Stanford figure to begin the season ranked in the top five in football and Pac-12 basketball figures to be as strong next season as it has been in the past five years. On the other hand, DirecTV didn't capitulate a year ago when Pac-12 flagship program USC began the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and with a Heisman candidate at quarterback.

The Pac-12 made a point of saying in its press release that DirecTV continues to turn down the same offer Comcast, Time Warner, DISH and other providers accepted last year when the network launched. That will surely anger the most hardcore fans of Pac-12 schools, yet DirecTV must believe it would receive more blowback for raising its prices because of caving to the Pac-12's demands than it will from continuing not to carry the network.

This ad campaign is the Pac-12's most fervent attempt to show DirecTV it's wrong. It will only work, however, if enough fans are willing to switch providers.

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