Mark Shuken, an experienced hand in the operation of regional sports networks, has been named president of Pac-12 Networks, the various TV outlets operated on behalf of Western universities including UCLA, USC and Arizona State University. He is set to join the Pac-12 officially on September 6.
“I have a lot of experience in sports-content creation” as well as in working with the needs of cable and satellite distributors, said Shuken, in an interview. He has created and marketed regional sports network for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Dodgers and LA Galaxy, and worked for Time Warner Cable Sports Network and DirecTV Sports Networks, and served as president and CEO of Liberty Sports Group.
Shuken fills a post previously held by Lydia Murphy-Stephans, the former Olympic speed skater who became the first woman to head a national sports network. She stepped down from the job in June to launch her own media consultancy.
Pac-12 has agreements in place with both ESPN and Fox Sports to carry some of its games through 2024, said Larry Scott, the Pac-12 Conference’s Commissioner, in an interview. That gives Shuken some time to focus not only on beefing up advertising and sponsorship revenue, but also to explore digital distribution. “We are dipping our toe in the water, delivering content on twittera and with Facebook Live,” said Scott. “I think you will see us do more of that with some of the new companies that are going to make more of a priority around live video.”
Launched in August of 2012, Pac-12 Network is the first of its kind: a regional sports network devoted to a particular collegiate athletic conference that is owned outright by the universities that supply its content. Fox, CBS and ESPN had a hand in similar outlets, such as Big Ten Network or SEC Network. As such, said Scott, “we are able to follow our own decisions on production and generating additional income and eyeballs.”
Pac-12 Networks incorporates one national and six regional television networks, plus digital content that is made accessible through social media, university websites and Pac-12 Now, a streaming service for authenticated subscribers to cable or satellite service. Each year, Pac-12 Networks offers live coverage of 850 sporting events
Pac-12 also wants to work on developing audiences around some sports that may not always get national attention, such as swimming or soccer. Shuken said he sees an opportunity to engage alumni and work fan bases to create communities around various sports. “You’ll see some data saying sports that one might find obscure – wrestling, for example – you have passionate audiences around. Every sport has its passionate audiences.”