Whether it's unveiling a new logo, landing a lucrative TV deal or exploring the possibility of airing games in Asia, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has already established himself as the most forward-thinking conference commissioner in college athletics.
One of the models he's exploring for the soon-to-launch Pac-12 network only cements that reputation.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Scott has held discussions with Apple and Google about a potentially revolutionary broadcast partnership. Instead of teaming up with Time Warner or Comcast to assemble its network, the Pac-12 would become the first conference to create an internet-based network that would allow fans to watch via a laptop or mobile phone rather than a TV.
The downside would be considerable short-term revenue loss from the lack of subscription fees, but the 12-year, $250 million contract Scott negotiated with Fox and ESPN last month awards the league unprecedented flexibility. An internet-based network would put the league in better position than any of its peers if internet becomes widely accessible through big-screen TVs, a boom-or-bust gamble that could pay off big in five years.
The other options Scott is considering are more traditional, according to the Mercury News.
The Pac-12 could rebrand an existing channel, which would minimize the distribution risk but force the conference to surrender a larger cut of the profits to a chosen programmer. Or the Pac-12 could start from scratch in launching its own network and attempting to align with an existing cable or satellite operator.
No matter what model the Pac-12 chooses, Scott's plan is to have the network up and running in August 2012 to air select games in men's and women's basketball, football and the Olympic sports that year. That means we should know Scott's chosen model soon because there's lots to be done to launch a network in 14 months.