By Jim Williams
WASHINGTON — The Pac 12 is on the verge of completing a new media rights deal while at the same time expanding as the members and conference president George Klivakoff look to stabilize “The Conference of Champions.” With both Los Angeles schools, UCLA and USC leaving for the Big Ten, the Pac 12 must keep a foothold in Southern California while dealing with the reality their new television tier-one rights holder will be the world’s largest streaming service.
First, on the expansion front, there is no question that the Pac 12 will be adding teams it is just a matter of if they will invite 2 or 4 schools to join as new members. The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy is reporting that commissioner Klivakoff has visited San Diego State and SMU with talks about joining the league to keep a strong presence in Southern California while adding the all important Dallas media market to the mix.
McMurphy is reporting that the Pac 12 wants more quality content which will drive up the value of their total media deal. Right now the conference is looking at volume to be more attractive to Amazon and other potential partners.
“I do agree that the Pac 12 needs to expand first with San Diego to replace UCLA and USC in Southern California and SMU fits academically for the conference as well as adding the Dallas market,” says Evan Weiner a New York-based Sports Business expert, author and lecturer who has been following college and pro sports for over 35 years. “I am sure Boise State, Fresno State, and UNLV (media market) will remain on the expansion shortlist because every year they play Pac 12 members in multiple sports and are very competitive, plus I would grab Gonzaga adding them as a basketball-only member.”
For the moment no media rights deal can be done until the conference presidents sign off on Amazon being the primary tier-one rights holder and once that is done we can see other players enter for smaller parts of the package. There are a couple of member schools that feel not having ESPN or Fox as partners will hurt the conference.
According to Frank Carney, a former Time -Warner program executive who is retired but who still has strong Pac-12 ties.
Think that soon the presidents will overcome their concerns and sign a deal with Amazon. It is a no-brainer when you take into consideration, they are the biggest online retailer on the planet with over 250,000 subscribers with a promotion machine that is second to none, Amazon was attractive enough to land them a deal with the NFL. Meanwhile, with Amazon, every game you play from football to field hockey is streamed to a worldwide audience the conference is getting at an international recruiting tool.”
The number presently on the table for the Pac 12 has been reported as $25 million per school with the contract length at the moment uncertain while the final details are being ironed out. At present, the Pac 12 hopes to have a deal worth $40 million per team per year. That might be a bit high given the recently completed Big 12 deal with ESPN and Fox at six-year “worth a total of $2.28 billion or about $31.5 million per school ending in 2030-31.
Here is how the deal is likely to go as soon as the Amazon deal gets done.
Amazon begins by taking over the Pac 12 Network and rebranding it as the Prime Pac 12 Network.
It is a turnkey operation with staff, studios, talent, and production facilities just waiting to be taken over. A few years ago when I was the Sports Media Columnist for the San Francisco Examiner I did a deep dive into the Pac 12 Network, and I was impressed with the volume of content they produced which totals over 800 events per year from football to water polo.
So, every Saturday would begin with the Prime Pac 12 Network tailgate show on campus leading up to 12:30 p.m. PT. Kickoff of the Amazon College Game of the Week. My former Sports Business Journal colleague John Ourand identified CBS as an interested partner for a package. Despite losing the SEC and picking up some afternoon Big Ten games, east coast prime time games which could fill the 4:30 PT primetime slot and don’t count out Fox having some interest as well.
Finally, ESPN could keep their popular Pac 12 After Dark games with a 7:30 p.m PT. broadcast something has said they would like to continue. Another possibility could be moving the ESPN Pac 12 game to Friday and offering FOX the Saturday late-night package to go up against Saturday Night Live again with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff because most Fox stations in the East have a 10 p.m. news as a lead-in.
The Prime Pac 12 Network could work with the conference to stream all the games not covered in the three national windows and top things off with the close of the night post game show. That would also allow Amazon to sell some of the Olympic sports to Apple or YouTube if they wish.
With a new sports app, Amazon could easily give fans access to the games wherever they may be with “Pac 12 in your pocket,” on your phone or tablet. Despite some member concerns a partnership with Amazon with support from ESPN and CBS or Fox should get them close to $40 million per member per year for what is likely to be a six-year deal and the Conference of Champions could be in good shape after all.
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