Just ahead of football season, the Pac-12 Conference and Commissioner Larry Scott celebrated its five-year anniversary by tapping the services of Mark Shuken as the new President of the Pac-12 Networks, where he will begin starting Sept. 6. Shuken brings a resume that includes Time Warner Cable Sports Networks, where he led the creation and branding of three regional sports networks for the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Dodgers and LA Galaxy; President and CEO of DirecTV Sports Networks; and President and CEO of Liberty Sports Group.
As the networks celebrate five years of programming, Cynopsis Sports chatted with Shuken about taking the job, the role of branded sports networks and increasing distribution.
Shuken on the media landscape: I don’t think there is anything more meaningful than a branded sports network in today’s media puzzle. Specifically, I recall one of the distributors that I worked with saying that with all of the content that’s out there for free that’s being time-shifted and – frankly- isn’t a high priority for customers, the live sports and connected sports content is really setting itself apart in today’s media landscape. One of the reasons I’m so excited about this role is that it cuts through the clutter. I would also say that we have this passionate group of alums and while I’ve seen pro and collegiate sports in my career for 30 years, pro sports fans, while they generally support their teams, athletes move and teams change. Meanwhile an alum of an university stays a fan for life. So this content to me is more meaningful than any other.
On taking the job: There are so many things that are intriguing to me about this role, in fact, I find it the most ideal fit for me ever in a pretty long career. Larry Scott is the fundamental reason for that. He has a great eye for innovation and being creative with content and, as evidence of that, kept control of all the content across all the platforms that people are consuming media over. While most entities have to live with the partnerships they have created, we control all content. Larry also really believe in the culture of an organization, which I agree with. Culture makes for a better working environment which drives a better product. Those two major buckets are what were most intriguing to me about the role.
On the biggest challenge: The biggest challenge is also the biggest opportunity and that is to acknowledge consumer behavior. I think linear TV providers traditionally have not been as agile and as flexible as the consumer needed them to be. So the biggest challenge is to make sure to address how people want to connect, receive and experience their content. So for me, having many years left on our agreements with our current partners is fantastic because it delivers all the platform opportunities today but we need to make sure we are well positioned for the future and the future is already here.
On accomplishing that goal: We are going to look at every opportunity. A lot of people are talking about the world of digital, streaming, OTT and all of those opportunities and those are all certainly things we are learning about getting into. But let’s not forget the core competencies of our current distributors and the core of the business because those things are not mutually exclusive, I don’t think. So the answer is that we are going to look at innovating our technology and ultimately really building a brand in value that has already had great success over the first five years. As for adding linear distributors, again, we will look at every opportunity in the future to add distribution while respecting the current partnerships.