DirecTV & Dish face next impasse: the Pac-12 network

So if you’re a DirecTV (s DTV) subscriber, you’re able to see Spongebob and Jon Stewart again, but you might miss out on USC vs. Stanford football.

With the Pac-12 collegiate athletic conference set to launch a national cable TV network, along with six regional channels, on Aug. 15, satellite services DirecTV and Dish Network (s DISH) — the Nos. 2 and 3 pay TV operators in the U.S. — have yet to sign a deal to carry the new programmer.

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Telco-based distributors Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse also remain unsignd.

A representative for DirecTV, which just resolved a significant program licensing dispute with Viacom on Friday, said talks with Pac-12 Network officials are ongoing, but no announcement is expected until “closer to the school year.”

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Televising every Pac-12 college football and basketball game not already picked up under the conference’s licensing deals with Disney/ESPN and Fox’s regional sports operations, the Pac-12 Network has agreements in place to launch on Comcast (s CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (s TWC), Cox and Brighthouse, covering about 40 million U.S. homes.

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While they lack leverage in most program licensing negotiations, passing on sports is typically noteven an option for major pay TV carriers.

For example, come this fall in the Los Angeles region, if certain big USC and UCLA football games remain blacked out on DirecTV and Dish, these services could see subscribers aggressively switch over to Time Warner Cable, the only major carrier with a Pac-12 Network deal in that region.

But carriers like DirecTV and Dish are more intent than ever these days about holding the line on ever-increasing program licensing costs, and they don’t seem to be in any hurry to make deal.

The Pac-12 Network is going to launch with a flagship national channel, as well as six satellite channels serving six regions: Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Utah/Colorado.

Last month, DirecTV CEO Michael White told reporters that he had no interest in carrying all seven channels.

Certainly, White has other costs down the road to consider. Not only is the long-term popularity of the Pac-12 network unknown, but Time Warner Cable is about to launch its own regional sports  channels, cemented around a multi-billion deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.

As for the Pac-12, the model remains the Big 10 Network, which launched in August 2007 on only DirecTV and U-Verse, before its popularity pulled most other major pay TV carriers onboard.

The model to avoid? The Mountain West Conference’s channel, which never broke out beyond its DirecTV cariage and was ultimately scuttled.