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Scott D. Pierce: Finding Utah Utes football on TV could still be issue

Published: Thursday, Aug. 12 2010 10:51 p.m. MDT

A college sports fan recently e-mailed me to express his frustration with his university's television deal.

As a matter of fact, he wrote that his university's deal with Comcast has been "a disaster for fans."

No, he wasn't a Utah or BYU fan. And he wasn't complaining about the Mountain West Conference's deal to create The mtn., which is co-owned and operated by Comcast.

Actually, he's an Oregon fan. And he's not exactly enthused about the possibility that the Pac-10 could sign a deal with Comcast when that league's TV rights are negotiated in 2012.

"The switch by (the) U. of Oregon to Comcast as the rights owner for UO programming has been a disaster for fans in Oregon and Washington who do not have access to Comcast cable," he wrote. "Unless these fans are Comcast subscribers, they no longer have access to coaches' shows and other local UO programming that was available to them three years ago.

"Why? Because Comcast wants to charge more than cable operators like Charter and satellite services want to pay. Comcast wants to enforce rules related to channel packages that other operators like Charter don't want to force on their customers."

It all sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it?

Comcast has been keeping a bit of a low profile in the midst of its fight to gain regulatory approval to take control of NBC Universal. But there's word that the company is interested in the Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-12) rights because the conference's footprint so closely matches Comcast's cable footprint.

It's difficult to believe that there won't be a way for Ute fans to see all their team's football games and most (if not all) of the basketball games. But the days of having to have the correct cable or satellite system and pay for the correct tiers of programming won't end when Utah exits the MWC.

WHAT IF? If Comcast wins the rights to Pac-12 sports, and if Comcast takes control of NBC, you've got to wonder where games could end up.

On Versus (which Comcast owns)? On Universal Sports? On NBC?

Wouldn't it be interesting if KSL-Ch. 5 became the local home of Ute football?

PAC-12 CHANNEL: Conference commissioner Larry Scott has said the league is "not that far along in our planning" for a Pac-12 Channel — the equivalent of the Big Ten Network.

But he did raise the possibility that the channel would have "more premiere programming" than is available on BTN. Because BTN gets the games that don't air on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 — and those networks take the "premiere" matchups.

Of course, Scott could be negotiating publicly. As in — pay us more money, and we'll give you our "premiere" games.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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