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Pac-12 Networks is changing its strategy on local coverage

Trojans guard Katin Reinhardt drives to the basket against UCLA's Bryce Alford in the second half at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 13.

Trojans guard Katin Reinhardt drives to the basket against UCLA’s Bryce Alford in the second half at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 13.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Pac-12 Networks is in its fourth year, which network President Lydia Murphy-Stephans says makes it “a toddler now.”

Network officials hope that means maturation. For college basketball fans, it means changes to how some people will watch the Pac-12 tournament beginning Wednesday.

As always, each tournament game will air on the national channel, the Pac-12 Network. Local games will also air on the Pac-12 Networks’ regional channels. But regional channels will no longer show each out-of-market tournament game.

For example, fans of USC or UCLA can watch the teams’ first-round game on Pac-12 Los Angeles or the pricier Pac-12 Network national channel. However, the other three men’s games Wednesday will be carried only on the national channel, so some Los Angeles fans with interests in conference teams other than USC and UCLA may not be able to watch those games.

“In our first three years, we tried to fit as many events as possible on all seven networks,” Murphy-Stephans said. “If a person was channel surfing, the networks looked pretty much the same. So this year we implemented the original plan to have seven differentiated networks.”

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Murphy-Stephans said that the current setup allows more local coverage. During the tournament, when the local team isn’t on the air, the regional channel will show other local Pac-12 sports, such as softball, baseball and gymnastics.

Coverage varies by region and provider, but most viewers get the regional network in their basic television package. The Pac-12 Networks have been lobbying providers to add the national channel to the basic package too.

In Los Angeles, most viewers receive Pac-12 Los Angeles — but not the national channel — as part of their basic package. (An exception: AT&T provides both in its basic offering.)

In some markets, high-definition coverage can vary too. Murphy-Stephans, who resides in the Bay Area, said she is a Comcast subscriber. She gets the regional channel in high definition, so the local tournament games will come in clear. But her Comcast provider currently offers the national channel only in standard definition.

zach.helfand@latimes.com


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