Pac-12 Networks to go dark Sunday night after 12 years

The Pac-12 Networks launched in 2012 as a Pac-12 Conference media company that promised lots of programming – seven television channels that eventually produced about 850 live events per year with the help of about 150 full-time employees.

But now it’s all over. The Pac-12 Networks finally will go dark Sunday night at age 12 due to complications from a vexing national outbreak – college football realignment.

“Pac-12 Networks will end its signal for its seven linear television channels on June 30 at midnight,” the league said in an email Thursday. “We will no longer broadcast or program these seven linear TV channels.”

The networks’ killing had been planned for months. Yet as they disappear from cable channels Monday, their death still serves as a stark reminder of realignment’s wreckage and the uncertainty still looming about what remains of the “Conference of Champions.” Here’s a breakdown:

What will happen to those Pac-12 channels?

They won’t be there anymore – the main Pac-12 Network channel or the six regionalized channels, such as Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Arizona.

“The networks will go down at 11:59PM PST (Sunday),” the Cox Communications cable and internet company said in an email Thursday. “The channel numbers will still be active for 2 weeks with a screen letting customers know the network is no longer in operation.”

Likewise, Charter Communications recently sent a notice to customers that said the Pac-12 channels will cease programming. But the notice also reminded customers that select former Pac-12 teams soon will be featured on the Big Ten Network or the Atlantic Coast Conference Network.

Why did the Pac-12 Networks die?

There were several causes. The networks never got the distribution they wanted, limiting their exposure with viewers, especially after failing to get a deal with DirecTV. The main Pac-12 Network only had an average of 12.4 million subscribers in 2023, compared to 46.4 million for the Southeastern Conference Network and 43.8 million for the Big Ten Network, according to estimates provided to USA TODAY Sports from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

This stemmed from a lack of demand. Cable providers only paid an average of 14 cents per subscriber per month for the Pac-12 Network, far below the 97 cents per subscriber per month for the SEC Network and 77 cents for Big Ten Network, according to the estimates from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The 12 Pac-12 universities that owned the Pac-12 Networks also opted to keep full ownership instead of bringing in an equity partner such as ESPN to give them leverage and investment. By contrast, the Big Ten Network is jointly owned by the league (39%) and media company Fox (61%).

Ultimately, these and other revenue shortcomings led Pac-12 schools to leave the league in pursuit of more media rights revenue, bigger viewership and more stability – a realignment that sealed the Pac-12 Networks’ fate.

In 2022, the University of Southern California and UCLA announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024. Last summer, eight other Pac-12 teams announced they were leaving for the Big 12, Big Ten or ACC, leaving just two orphaned members in the Pac-12 who weren’t invited to other leagues – Oregon State and Washington State. Those moves become official in August.

What happens with the Pac-12 Network properties?

The two remaining schools in the Pac-12 will own the networks’ production facilities in San Ramon, Calif. That is part of a business called Pac-12 Enterprises, which now offers its broadcast production services to external clients, with profits flowing back to the two remaining schools.

It also will produce the telecasts for the 11 home football games that will air on The CW Network for Oregon State and Washington State in 2024.

In basketball and other sports, Oregon State and Washington State will compete as affiliate members of the West Coast Conference. Their home basketball games on the ESPN+ streaming service also will be produced by Pac-12 Enterprises, according to the Pac-12.

How will this help the two Pac-12 schools?

It’s an asset that could be used as a card to play in the shifting sands of any future realignment – a sports television and content business with a full suite of broadcast infrastructure and a track record of producing live sports events.

In the meantime, Oregon State and Washington State can operate as a two-team league for up to two years before deciding what to do next, such as possibly combining with the Mountain West Conference under the Pac-12 banner.

Under NCAA rules, leagues in the Football Bowl Subdivision are required to have at least eight members. But if they fall short of that, they are allowed a two-year grace period and will continue to use and own the Pac-12 name under commissioner Teresa Gould, who has a two-year contract.

How will they spend their final hours?

The last live event on the Pac-12 Network came May 24 with a baseball tournament game in Arizona. It has aired many reruns of previous games since then and is scheduled to televise the 1992 ‘Snow Bowl’ football game between Washington State and Washington late Sunday night before going off air, according to the Cox cable guide.

On Friday, Gould posted a thread on social media site X to note the passing of an era.

“Normally around this time we are celebrating the accomplishments of the academic year & preparing for the next. Instead, today we are saying goodbye to the final group of loyal @pac12 &  @Pac12Network staff that are departing an organization they love,” Gould wrote.

She ended the thread with a nod to an uncertain future. There are only about 30 employees left in the Pac-12, including Pac-12 Enterprises, according to the league.

“For the small number of us that are continuing, we will continue to fight for the @pac12, for the Beavs and the Cougs, and for all of you,” she wrote. “We hope to make you proud.”

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

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