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Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

Yeah, I know that college football discussion is not in the wheelhouse of a good percentage of the readership here at the ‘Lancer, but maybe some of it will work out. Here’s a rather frothy rant from the guy at Coaches Hot Seat, who Uses A Lot Of Caps and Exclamation Points! (It’s also a way for me to test a Firefox WP add-in. But I’m going to let you watch Larry Scott get blistered, and that should be worth it. I hope.)

Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

The CHS fellow and I disagree about the meaninglessness of bowl games. I would, however, agree that the proliferation of stuff like the Kraft Fight Hunger With Manufactured Junk Food Bowl, the Beef O’Brady Bunch Bowl, and the Idaho Potato Bowl (they repeat themselves, ahem) has made college football bowl season ridiculous. Most times, all it takes is a .500 record to be assured of a bowl in a major conference, or a winning record in a non-major. It feels like ‘every kid gets a trophy,’ even though it isn’t, quite. Though at the rate we are going, we might end up with enough bowls that everyone makes it. It would only take about 60, and we’re halfway there. Bowl games I think would be fun:

  • The Rotten.com Bowl (play it in East St. Louis)
  • The Experian Credit Wrecker Bowl
  • The Bank of America Nickel-and-Dime Bowl
  • The Onion Bowl (in reality, it would turn out to be a hoax)
  • The Bismarck Bowl (let’s see how well your team really travels: North Dakota in December!)
  • The Twilight Bowl (during Fairbanks, AK’s few hours of dusk that pass for daylight)
  • The Lentil Bowl (played at Pullman)
  • The Begging Bowl (hold it in whichever EU country, that refuses to tax its rich people or rein in spending, is in the worst shape and needs a boost…Greece would be the current frontrunner, though Spain is mounting a credible bid)
  • The Crock O’ Crap Bowl (where else but our nation’s capital?)
  • The Smoke-A-Bowl (alternating between Colorado and Washington; I think that’s fair)
  • The Tidy Bowl (Geneva, Switzerland, since you can basically eat off the streets in Switzerland)
  • The Sanction Bowl (best two teams on bowl probation; held in the yard at a maximum security prison)
  • The Facebook Bowl Sponsored by Everyone

What isn’t funny this year, as the CHS article mentions, is the colossal failure of the highly touted brand spankin’ new Pac-12 Networks. Here was the idea: imitate the Big 10 (which used to have twelve members, now the number keeps shifting, but only ten of them are even remotely big anyway) by starting the conference’s own network, getting nearly every Pac-12 football game on TV and also televising a lot of other sports that don’t get as much exposure. It was a good idea.

What we did not expect was that the Pac-12 would get so greedy. It had a year to reach agreements with the major premium TV providers. In the main, the conference failed at the basics of business: you need to get the sale. My understanding is that the Pac-12 had promised the member schools Big Moola, forgetting two things: that one still has to reach agreement with providers, and that if one fails in this, one’s network is a not-work because your viewers can’t watch the games. In our area, the Pac’s failure to reach agreement with DefectiveTV and Cheater (two of our three primary providers) denied a majority of the local viewership any chance to watch the games. In my case, four Husky games plus one non-Husky rivalry game mattered to me. During that one, I sat down to write a letter, since it wasn’t on my TV. I’d like to share it with you.

November 24, 2012

Mr. Larry Scott

Pac-12 Conference

1350 Treat Blvd., Suite 500

Walnut Creek, CA 94597-8853

Dear Mr. Scott:

Normally right now I would be rooting for one disliked Pac-12 rival to beat a more disliked Pac-12 rival on TV. Unfortunately, the UO/OSU game is on your Pac-12 Networks, which DirecTV doesn’t offer, so I have free time to write you a letter I have spent most of the season formulating.

In 2011, I was able to watch all twelve Washington games on TV. In 2012, I was able to watch eight. Sadly, the other four were on your vaunted Pac-12 Networks, thus unavailable to me. I trust you understand what this means: your network has been a detriment to Pac-12 sports coverage. If that weren’t bad enough, you have sicked our almae matres on us. Pliant minions that they can so often be, they’ve tried to convince us to blame the satellite and cable providers, and to switch to a provider that carries the Pac-12 Networks. I am not an unreasonable man, nor am I new to DirecTV. I know that DirecTV, a perennial corporate spoiled child and bully, manages to fight with some content provider most months, causing loss of coverage. I am not taking DirecTV’s side when I fault you for the situation. I’m pointing to results: we were better off without your networks. Your networks made sports worse.

It didn’t have to be this way. There were other options. You had a year to work out some sort of deal with the likes of DirecTV. If you had to settle for less money than you have evidently promised the schools, you could have negotiated a one-year deal and returned to the table later. You could have offered online viewing through the Pac-12 Networks website for a reasonable subscription fee (or even free). I would have paid. Instead, you co-opted the schools into repeating your talking points, pressuring fans to pressure their TV providers. One problem with that, Mr. Scott: bright minds graduate from Pac-12 schools. Most aren’t fools. We learn critical thinking. We aren’t all so easily manipulated, and the attempt insults our intelligence and education. Who’s going to dump an otherwise functional vendor relationship over such a small percentage of their TV service? That would be dumb business.

I can tell what this stance cost the conference, because I happened to see some Pac-12 Networks coverage while visiting a friend. While I found the overall coverage substandard, the commercials stood out most. Nearly all were yours, which tells me you didn’t sell much airtime. While the ADs may parrot the line, the advertisers aren’t buffaloed. They know that your stance has lessened the audience, making your price higher than your viewing base is worth to them. It was more sad than comical, but it was a bit of both.

Sir, you have failed. You have taken yet another step in the transformation of a great sport into purest moneyball, where fans are just annoyances who had best hush, accept what is thrown to them, and keep their noses out of corporate management. You have made it pointedly clear that the fans’ good does not matter.

Proud of that?

Sincerely,

J. K. Kelley (UW ’86)

I don’t expect a reply.

The Pac-12 Networks, a.k.a. the Not-works

In July 2011, with many college sports programs playing musical conferences and engaging in games of chicken with each other, the recently expanded Pacific-12 Conference (UW, WSU, the Zeroes, OSU, Utah, Colorado, Cal-Berkeley, Stepford, ASU, UA, USC and UCLA) announced plans for a TV network like what the Big 10 (which has more than ten schools) has deployed. Great, we said, we want to see more football and have our conference doing what big-time conferences do. Revenue sharing would help the smaller market schools, etc., etc. Let’s see the show!

The assumption, which we could not know was flawed, was that we would be able to see the show. In the words of the immortal, unbearable Lee Corso:  “Not so fast, my friend.”

Fourteen months later, the 2012 college football season kicks off. The Pac-12 has failed to reach agreement with just about everyone, which is a pretty good sign the conference got very greedy. A number of games are televised on the Pac-12 Not-works, but very few people can watch them on TV. A few clever souls find other ways, naturally, but only the hardest core of fans would do that. Those who do, find out that the Pac-12 Not-works have sold zero advertising, so the not-work fills the space with commercials for itself. Yes. I must have seen the Stanford swimmer’s segment a dozen times. Every few minutes, its ten viewers are treated to advertising telling us how fantastic the not-work is.

That isn’t marketing. It’s masturbation, and comical masturbation at that. Seriously: while having failed in your most basic mission, which is to get on TV so you can sell advertising, rather than spare me a bunch of commercial breaks, you are going to go on and on about your virtues? Do you not understand that when the only advertising content you have to offer is to rhapsodize yourself, you have failed? You are a conference comprised of twelve research universities, all with educational claims to fame and pride, which attract some of the best and brightest people in the world, and you leave the house without your pants? Mr. Larry Scott, you are a Harvard graduate. For the gods’ sake, put some trousers on. No one needs to see you this way.

Not that the satellite and cable providers are any prizes in the area of doing what’s best for viewers. DefectiveTV, which is what I have, engages in a ‘playground recess hair-pulling skirmish of the month’ with some content provider just about every month, taking its message to the blacked-out channels to explain how those nasty stupids at (insert network name) have been unreasonable, pulled their content, and tried to force us all to pay through the nose, but only DefectiveTV stands Promethean in defense of our fair prices and sweet reason. Yeah. When every recess, the same kid is always in a fight with someone, always comes whining, and never takes any responsibility for even being half the problem, guess what. It’s obvious where most of the problem lies.

The much-vaunted Pac-12 Networks are Not-works. They are a failure. At this point, we would be better off without them, since the games they show would otherwise be picked up on other channels, all of which seem not to consider themselves too ultra-special to get a deal worked out and be on the air.

Every year, it is a little more about pure greed and big money, and a little less about athletics and education. I will always wish UW well, but I can see a day where, if this trend continues, I simply won’t care about watching the sport. At which time I will cease to be an advertising consumer, be it for idiotic pickup truck commercials appealing to my machismo, idiotic insurance commercials appealing to my gullibility, or idiotic beer commercials appealing to my pedestrian tastes.

Mr. Scott, you and your networks are a failure.

The best ass-covering you could come up with was to blame it all on the other side, and sick your athletic directors on the public, encouraging them to switch providers. (For some of us, with no provider in our areas that carries the Not-works, a non-starter.) “Waaaaaaah! They started it! Waaaah! Punish them!

It’s looking positively Congressional.

Just another area of America in which the stupidity of the public is taken on faith by the wealthy and powerful, and where, if said public notices something wrong and complains that ‘this is bullshit,’ the public is fed a line of crap and told to stop being difficult.

I’ll give you difficult. Mr. Scott, so far you have boloed this exercise. You are a no go at this station. You snubbed BYU/Utah, the perfect regional, rivalry and research fit for the conference, simply because a Mormon school icks out Left Coast schools, with all that honor code and right-wing political stuff–as if that were relevant at all to research or athleticism. Instead, you brought in Colorado, which is about as Pacific as Wyoming and has a minimal existing rivalry relationship with Utah. Mr. Scott, if this is how you roll, I wouldn’t hire you to manage a Division 5 conference, much less a I-A BCS conference. You have failed. The results speak for themselves. You are the John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi of collegiate athletics. Enjoy that prestigious distinction.

In the meantime, Commissioner Scott, go to hell.

Firing DefectiveTV

That, of course, is my name for DirecTV. We can choose between DoucheNetwork (DishNetwork), Cheater (Charter) and DefectiveTV.

We are not big TV watchers, which makes sense because much of what’s on there doesn’t interest us. The ‘History’ Channel is torn between antique dealers and paranormal research. The regular networks are a big faaaaaaaaaaa, except for my trashy reality shows. A&E is bearable. ESPN thinks poker is a sport. Half of what’s on is infomercials, especially late at night.

Here’s what I hate. At any given time, some channel(s) that we paid for and expected to receive are not available. If one navigates to them, one gets a DefectiveTV-slanted pitch as to why. Basically:  “The mean people of this channel want to raise your price to the stratosphere, but we, your defenders at DirecTV, stand firm to protect your lower prices! Write to them and tell them to cave in to us and stop being unreasonable!”

Yeah. I don’t think that’s credible. My prices for DefectiveTV keep going up. When they are bickering over prices, I never get any refund for the content I didn’t receive. The end result, therefore, is that DefectiveTV engages in a lot of pissing matches, but they don’t keep my prices down, and at any given time I’m not getting some of what I pay them for. I think it much more likely that DefectiveTV demands a much bigger piece of the pie, and the content provider balks, and DefectiveTV says, ‘fine. We’ll stop carrying you. Let’s see how your advertisers like that.’ I think DefectiveTV is playing the Wal-Part in this production, and I do not like it. Another good example is the brand new Pac-12 networks. Out here, failure to carry these is not allowable. What is DefectiveTV doing? Bickering with them, of course. What else do they know how to do? Maybe we’ll get them, maybe not. Maybe by the time that’s resolved, I won’t give a damn. Even their satellite reception is crappy, often cutting out just when we want to watch something.

Suppose you are dealing with a child. Daily, the child has a tale of woe. Every day, something goes wrong. Child’s explanation: this person did this, that person caused that, someone dropped this, she is a big meany, he is a jerk. At some point, if the child does not say “I caused this. I messed up. This is my fault,” we tend to think that the common factor in all problems is this child, and s/he is not taking responsibility. DefectiveTV is starting to look like the child.

I think I’m ready to spend my money with adults. I’m sick of second grade recess messing up the few programs and networks I care to watch.

DoucheNetwork isn’t a viable option. I hate going back to regular cable, but so far as I’m aware, Cheater doesn’t spend all this time fighting over content. It’s time to do some research.

Here’s an analogy. I have a grocery store. You shop there. You get used to the products I carry, but now and then there’s some item you cannot find at all. One week, no coffee of any kind; I’m putting the squeeze on my wholesaler. The coffee section is covered over with a large screed pleading my case as to why I am defending your low prices by failing to sell you coffee. Next week, no dairy; I’m bickering with the cow-milkers. Big poster explaining why this is actually to your advantage that you can’t buy sour cream and yogurt. The week after, it’s salsa: none on our shelves, just a large placard blaming the salsa manufacturer for trying to make you pay too much.

But wait: there’s more. You sigh and buy your groceries, minus whatever I was having a bitchfight about. You pay your bill in full. The cashier reaches into your grocery bags and randomly yanks out some of your merchandise, returned to my store’s inventory. No refund. Sorry. This is our policy. You pay for things that you sometimes don’t get. You complain. My employees explain that we do not guarantee that you will get anything at all for your money, therefore we have the right to take back any or all of what you paid for. You call this larceny. My store doesn’t care.

How do you like my business practices?

If you didn’t shower me in vile language, condemning my ancestors as the obvious products of canines fornicating with swine and camels, you either have no passion or weren’t paying attention, or are a nun who doesn’t use that sort of language. One might argue that you should come back to my store and rob me at gunpoint. After all, I robbed you. I took your money and stole back your merchandise. You’d just be getting your money back.

So that’s where we are at with DefectiveTV. We are sick of being robbed. We tire of explanations transparent in a seven-year-old troublemaker. We think the Robin Hood spin is a crock of crap. When we see our DefectiveTV bill go down, when we see a monthly rebate for the content we are denied, we might believe the spin. Until then, it just looks like DefectiveTV waterboarding its content providers for maximum profit, happily hosing its paying customers.

Everyone hates cable companies, but I am hard pressed to divine how they could be more scrofulous than this. I think it’s about time to vote with our wallets.