November will be a high-water mark for the Pac-12 Network, and it’s unlikely to go down soon.
Launched in 2012, the network has undergone a substantial programming change over the past year to help drive new viewers to the property, said Dustin Rocke, the network’s vice president of programming and development.
When Rocke started with the network, the trend of cutting the cord and the rise of social channel roles in content had not yet occurred. He conceded when he started his career, he never thought there’d be a day he’d intentionally put content on other platforms. Now, he uses those channels to buoy the viewership.
“When we started, [channels, website, social] really acted independently,” Rocke said. “We were focused on the TV network and live events. Now our bread and butter is still live events, but over the last year we started thinking about other programming we’re doing.”
A network driven by college fan bases does hold an advantage against other leagues and entertainment networks since the followers generally have passionate, lifelong loyalties and will almost always tune into their school’s football and basketball games.
While the Pac-12 Network’s ratings have steadily increased in its first six years, Rocke said drawing people in from the pool of cord-cutters is still at the forefront of the team’s current mission. It is now making a more concerted effort in cross-platform integration; original clips of premiere programming — like the behind-the-scenes show “The Drive” — create compelling content fans might want to consume.
“The idea is to get people hooked and want to get more on our platforms,” Rocke said. “[It’s] catching them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter by creating cool content, and our goal is they’ll want more of it. At the very least, we want to cultivate the fans and reach them where they are.”
Some of the additional platform content does drive revenue, but Rocke said the real intent is promotional value drawing views back to the TV and monetizing the programming there.
“That’s really the win for us,” he said, as the Pac-12 Network is driven by live events, with more than 120 this November.
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The network has 11 football games, highlighted by a competitive finish to the season, to elevate the busy month. In addition, it capitalized on yet another successful Pac-12 China Game which featured Cal’s men’s basketball team taking on Yale in Shanghai as part of its “Pac-12 Global” initiative on November 10.
The Pac-12 Network will also broadcast more than 250 men’s and women’s basketball games this year.
The games provide an opportunity to showcase the atmosphere of college campuses too. The network’s Saturday football show will make appearances on all 12 campuses this season, while it will make plenty of visits in the basketball season and then cap of the year with the men’s and women’s Pac-12 basketball championships in Las Vegas.
Rocke said the social channels are also important to draw in fans of Olympic sports, as the conference has more Olympic-sport national championships than others and televises dozens of high-quality matches every season.
“We’re trying to get people to understand other sports,” Rocke said. “It’s harder to develop those fans than draw in the ones that exist.”
As the network has matured, Rocke said the relationship with each school is well refined and helpful in producing intriguing content the network’s employees might not find without their ear to the ground on campus.
Rocke said his team regularly looks at other league networks and sports media outlets for content ideas and points of comparison.
“People want the all-access stuff,” he said. “We know people like that, but we also know we didn’t invent it. We know we’re not competing against those leagues for the USC fan that wants to watch a USC football game, but competing with the agnostic fan that has no ties and just wants to watch good content.”