Barring a last-minute settlement that doesn't appear likely, more than 18 million DirecTV satellite subscribers nationally — including those in the Bay Area — won't see the television broadcast of Saturday's Big Game.
This year's Cal-Stanford game is being televised exclusively on Versus, which was dropped from the DirecTV lineup at the end of August when its contract to carry the network expired. Negotiations on a new deal between Versus and DirecTV have been stalled for nearly three months because of a feud over carriage fees.
The Pac-10 has already lost its DirecTV audience in five previous games televised on Versus this year, including Stanford-Arizona on Oct."17 and last week's Cal home game against the Wildcats.
The Pac-10 doesn't have a direct contract with Versus, which is owned by Comcast. It does have a deal with Fox Sports Net instead, a deal that runs through the 2011-12 basketball season.
"They (Versus) are really a sub-licensee of Fox, which puts out five to six games to Versus every year," said Jim Muldoon, Pac-10 associate commissioner for communications and football administration. "There are selection rights to put one game on FSN and one game on Versus each weekend. Versus, for this particular weekend, had the selection preference and took Cal-Stanford."
Cal and Stanford fans don't have much recourse other than to complain to DirecTV or Versus. Muldoon said the Pac-10 is powerless to apply pressure since it doesn't have a direct relationship with either entity.
"We would like it to go away, because obviously it cuts into the number of households that can see the games," Muldoon said of the dispute between Comcast and DirecTV. "It's affecting our programming, but it's not something we have any control over."
The NHL, which has a contract with Versus, has had little luck trying to bring the two sides to agreement. Versus is the primary U.S. network for the league, carrying at least 54 regular-season games plus the playoffs. On its official Web site, the NHL has implored fans to complain to DirecTV. Versus is doing the same thing on its site.
DirecTV, which is not commenting publicly on its dispute with Versus, issued a statement on its Web site, claiming it offered to keep up Versus temporarily under the old deal while negotiations continued but Comcast declined. DirecTV also maintains it offered to air select college football matchups but that offer was denied.
Further deepening the battle, Comcast offered Versus to DirecTV's satellite rival, DISH Network, in a temporary arrangement that expires Dec."2. DISH Network subscribers will receive the Big Game.
And what about DirecTV subscribers who want to watch Cal-Stanford? Better find a friend who has cable or another satellite provider that gets Versus.
"Or find a friendly sports bar that does," Muldoon said.