Pac-12 Networks’ bottom line: 29 Cal teams, 24/7 access

The London Olympics are history, and Cal athletes were in the thick of the action — including 17 appearances on the winners’ platform — day after thrilling day. But memories fade, and Rio’s a long way away. What’s a fervent Bear booster supposed to do for the next four years?


Volleyball is among the Cal sports that can expect a spike in visibility with the launch of Pac-12 Networks. Here, outside hitter Adrienne Gehan goes for a kill. ( photo)

Roll on, you Golden Bear watchers. Grab the remote and cue the cheerleaders for the new Pac-12 Networks, which will soon be broadcasting more Cal sporting events than the most indefatigable Bear fan could ever have dreamed of. And all of them — NBC, take note — televised live.

The official launch of the Pac-12 Networks, set for today, Aug. 15, brings expanded coverage of a Western conference that, with the addition of Utah and Colorado, is now 12 colleges strong. For those scoring at home, here’s the bottom line: one national network with six regional feeds providing 24/7 access to Pac-12 teams, including many, like volleyball and women’s lacrosse, that don’t typically find their way to a TV screen.

Beyond some 350 national events expected to be shown simultaneously across all seven networks, Pac-12 Bay Area promises to air nearly 100 games featuring a regional team, including “a heavy dose” of Cal and Stanford.

“The scope and scale of what we’re doing is different than anything else that has ever been done in sports,” declares Gary Stevenson, president of Pac-12 Networks, which is partnering with FOX and ESPN to ensure that every conference football and men’s basketball game is broadcast.

According to Herb Benenson, Berkeley’s assistant athletic director for communications, all of UC Berkeley’s men’s and women’s intercollegiate squads will be televised on the regional network in some capacity, though schedules haven’t yet been announced beyond the first week of September.

The next few weeks will bring high-definition telecasts of Cal field hockey (Fridays, Aug. 24 and Aug. 31), women’s soccer (Sundays, Aug. 26 and Sept. 2) and — of course — the Cal football team’s season opener, the first to be played at the newly refurbished Memorial Stadium (Saturday, Sept. 1).

Football fans will also get a close-up look at their own team — along with the other 11 squads in the conference — a season preview,  classic and “encore” games and features on Cal athletes, coaches and rivalries produced at the networks’ San Francisco studio.

Yet if the new network means more football and basketball than ever, it’s the sports that rarely get broadcast in non-Olympics years — and their fans — that will see the biggest boost.

Veteran Cal volleyball coach Rich Feller, for one, says he and his players are “thrilled” about the expanded coverage. “We can hardly wait,” Feller says, “to share our brand of volleyball and the Pac-12 style of play to our already devoted fans, along with fans across the country who don’t normally get to see us. ”

Pac-12 Networks will also have a digital component, allowing fans to follow the action on mobile devices as long as they subscribe to one of the conference’s contracted video providers.

And that, for the moment, is the rub. If there’s an obstacle on the road to TV gold, it’s this: While Cal sports will be available immediately via Comcast and Astound, other cable providers — notably AT&T, Dish and DirecTV — haven’t yet signed agreements with Pac-12 Networks.

You can find out if your provider is carrying Pac-12 Networks programming — and, if not, urge it to do so — at the Cal Athletics website.

Meanwhile, it’s “game on” for broadcasts of water polo, softball and more than two dozen other Cal sports, all of which no doubt share the sentiments of the volleyball coach.

“I’m beyond excited,” says Feller, “that so many people will get to see all 12 teams play this season and into the future.”