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Pac-12 members issue bizarre statement about media deal progress as expansion rumors grow
It's unclear where exactly the Pac-12 is sitting with regards to their next media rights.
Last week, a report filtered out from the Athletic: Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff was having trouble finding TV partners to engage with for the conference’s next media deal.
In what almost feels like a direct response to those remarks, the remaining 10 Pac-12 member schools issued this public statement of confidence.
It sounds as if the Pac-12 is working hard to stay together, in spite of all rumors of encroachment elsewhere. But it does feel weird that they had to go public with this news before any deal has been inked.
The constant rumor has been Amazon and ESPN are the likeliest partners in a future Pac-12 TV deal, but it’s clear that the initial terms were not to either side’s liking.
ESPN has already locked up a huge deal with the SEC for a decade and has major investments in the ACC and the Big 12. The Pac-12 After Dark TV slots could be a nice ratings grab, but it’s not necessary for their bottom line, particularly with Oklahoma and Texas on their way. On the other side, the conference is probably wary of moving back to being primarily a night-time production.
In the streaming side of the house, Amazon might not be interested in taking on the operating infrastructure of anything outside of major college football games that draw TV ratings. The Pac-12 probably is more forward thinking about a streaming service, but might not be liking the proposals for their inventory (Tier 1 games on Friday night for maximum ratings, just as many late night contests as ESPN is proposing to avoid butting heads with primetime and afternoon Big Ten/SEC games, etc.).
There is also the non-revenue TV investment that the Pac-12 has always demanded. Will anyone outside the conference be interested in distributing these sports to the level the Pac-12 does? The likeliest home for most of these contests is likely ESPN+, but it’ll be interesting if they can host the same level of inventory as the Pac-12 Network currently does.
There is also the worry that being the last major conference on the market has TV networks and streaming services penny-pinching, particularly with lackluster subscription revenue numbers and a decade of data that the Pac-12 Network isn’t driving subs.
And of course, there’s also plenty of skepticism the conference will survive long-term.
You can understand why expansion has pointed the conference toward chats with San Diego State and SMU to being crucial for a deal getting done. It’s likely the Pac-12 will have to explore more local partners like Colorado State, Fresno State, UNLV and Nevada to add to the margins of the deal.
Based on last year’s ratings, the Pac-12 has one national TV brand after 2023 in Oregon, two very solid TV brands in Utah and Washington, a few schools straggling the middle in Cal, Washington State and Oregon State, and everyone else holding up the rear. Without USC and UCLA propping the conference up and giving visibility in the LA market, the Pac-12 may have to aim for size and density to get the media deal they want.
I’d still say we’re more likely to have a TV deal by the end of spring. But the figures just might not be to everyone’s liking.