Pac-12 Network Sues Dish for Withholding Carriage Fees

USC vs. Oregon State on the Pac-12 Network
USC quarterback Caleb Williams throws out of his own end zone during the Trojans' 17-14 win over Oregon State on Sept. 24, 2022, a game shown live on the Pac-12 Network. (Image credit: Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)

Struggling regional sports programmer Pac-12 Networks has filed suit against Dish Network, claiming that the pay TV service has improperly withheld licensing fees. 

The heavily redacted lawsuit, filed in a Colorado federal court, was obtained by San Jose Mercury News writer Jon Wilner, perhaps the most dialed-in reporter covering the troubled regional sports network and its equally turmoiled parent, the Pac-12 athletic conference. 

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Fees and other key elements pertaining to Dish's arrangement with the RSN are blacked out. But we are able to glean that Dish's program licensing agreement calls for the Pac-12 Network to show at least a specific number of live Pac-12 conference football games each season, which undoubtedly produce far and away the biggest audience for Pac-12 Network channels. 

And in the pandemic-affected 2020 season, only one game — a November non-conference contest between Colorado and San Diego State — made it onto the RSN. Pac-12 teams played severely truncated game schedules that year, with some schools logging as few as four games out of their usual 12-game schedules. Most Pac-12 games that did manage to get played were shown on ESPN and Fox Sports national feeds that season. 

The Pac-12 Network said it credited Dish for the lost games in 2020. But for some redacted reason, the pay TV operator also wants rebates on the 2018 and 2019 seasons, which were not impacted by COVID-19 — an aggression that will not stand, the RSN said.

Both Dish and the RSN refused comment. 

In Next TV's home base of Los Angeles, the Pac-12 Network and its six subordinate regional channels are carried by Dish Network and its Sling TV virtual MVPD, as well as Charter Communications, fuboTV, Frontier Fios and Vidgo. 

From Washington to Oregon, from California to Colorado and from Arizona to Utah, the RSN has been shunned by its footprint's largest pay TV operator, DirecTV, since it launched in 2012. 

Certainly, should this dispute include losing distribution on Dish and Sling TV — especially right now, with three Pac-12 football programs nationally ranked — it would be a bad blow to the RSN and its conference. 

The Pac-12 Network earned only $43 million in the COVID-impacted 2020 collegiate athletic season after generating $118 million in 2019. Compare that to the more than $1 billion the rival Big Ten Network will make its member schools in its new TV deal, and you begin to understand why two high-profile Pac-12 constituents, USC and UCLA, just announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten starting in the 2024 collegiate athletic season. ▪️

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!