The Western U.S. collegiate sports conference Pac-12 launched its iPad app Wednesday, which will offer live video from 850 Pac-12 Conference events that also air on the new Pac-12 Network. But Pac-12’s plans for its broadband and mobile offerings go much further. David Aufhauser, VP & GM of the online services subsidiary Pac-12 Digital, told me during a recent phone conversation that the network eventually wants to offer streaming access to events that don’t make the cut for TV as well, and even directly connect fans in their living rooms with those who watch competitions live in the stadium.
Pac-12 Networks launched this summer with one national and seven regional TV networks, which are complemented by a strong online presence. Its Pac-12 Now website offers authenticated pay TV subscribers live access to 850 games, and the new Pac-12 iOS app makes that same content available on the iPad as well. Dedicated iPhone and Android apps are set to follow this fall.
However, Aufhauser told me that the current iPad app — with its live video feeds, stats and all other kinds of bells and whistles — is very much a first step. Next up are plans to extend the content even further. Around 1,500 events from the Pac-12 Conference never make it to TV, and that’s where broadband and mobile video could fill an important gap.
Of course, sports fans don’t just want to sit back and watch events the way you’d watch a Saturday night movie. They want to feel like they’re there, and the Pac-12 is thinking about ways to make that happen. That means bringing social features to the app, and thinking beyond the couch potatoes. “We bring millions of people into stadiums to watch games live,” said Aufhauser. At the same time, countless others watch the games on their TV, their PC or their mobile device, and there’s no good reason why the folks in the stadium shouldn’t be able to interact with friends who stayed home. “Those experiences can be tied together,” said Aufhauser.
Yes, you got that right: Pac-12 Digital wants fans in stadiums to spend more time on their smart phones. That’s where the company’s Silicon Valley roots shine through. Aufhauser previously helped Justin.tv with their e-sports initiatives, and the entire team is located in the Bay Area with deep valley roots. “I like to describe it as a big startup,” said Aufhauser about Pac-12, adding: “We are not looking at what the SEC is doing. We are looking at what YouTube is doing.”
That’s also why the company made a conscious decision to hire folks with a tech background as opposed to a sports background, explained Aufhauser. “It’s about creating great content and about creating great technology,” he said.