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Pac-12 fans learn cost of TV deal

Fri., Nov. 9, 2012

SEATTLE – Stephen Nute, a frequent season-ticket holder for Washington football the past three decades, enjoyed the days when he could grab the schedule, see the times of games and begin planning his fall weekends.

He liked it best when the games were at 12:30 p.m., and he could envision taking in some football, then maybe enjoying a dinner with friends.

But these days, he’s increasingly left waiting until a week or two before the game to find out when kickoff will come, a wait necessitated by the Pac-12’s contract with its TV networks. The networks want the flexibility to get the best games in spots they think will be the most watched.

And more often than not, when the kickoff time for UW games has been announced, it’s an evening spot. Of Washington’s six home games, four have started at 6 p.m. or later, including Saturday’s game against Utah, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. – a game time that wasn’t announced until Sunday.

The Huskies played just two night games during the 2011 regular season.

“It just feels like we are being held captive to the whims of the network and it’s all about the network and TV revenues,” Nute said.

“I just prefer day games, I suppose. But I wish I knew when I bought the tickets what times the games are going to be.”

Washington officials have heard similar complaints and say they sympathize. But they say they hope fans understand the benefits from the increasing number of flexible start times and more night games. The benefits are coming, in part, from the Pac-12’s new TV contract, a 12-year deal that went into effect this year.

Those benefits include a significant increase in revenue – an estimated $3 billion distributed evenly to the schools over that 12-year time span – plus added exposure. For the first time, every game is on TV, and a higher percentage are seen nationally.

With football revenues paying most of the bills for college athletic departments, schools and conferences are under increasing pressure to maximize the dollars they can get from that sport.

“Our preference is not to play that many,” UW athletic director Scott Woodward said of night games. “But the dilemma for us is that we understand, and I think the vast majority of our fans understand, that our conference has made this deal and it’s a concession that we made (to get) the great, huge benefits that we have being affiliated with the Pac-12. … It’s one of those things I am sympathetic for. But it’s part of the age we are living in. It’s the new normal.”

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