Breaking Down The Pac-12's New TV Deal With ESPN/Fox & Pac-12 Network

The new Pac-12 TV deals are a wrap and this is a big one for everyone. At $3 billion over 12 years, the Pac-12 will rake in roughly $250 million per year in the largest TV deal for any conference in the country. That means each of the 12 member schools will pocket about $21 million annually when this deal begins in 2012-2013, a far cry from the current TV deal that nets the conference less than $60 million annually. In all, the conference takes a major step forward with this TV deal in what is a major victory for the conference and commissioner Larry Scott in particular.

"I think it's fair to say 18 months ago, never in our wildest dreams would we have envisioned being in the position that we're in today," Arizona State athletic director Lisa Love said.

Why might that be? Well, 18 months ago all the Pac-10 knew was Tom Hansen and his incompetent leadership. Now, they have Scott in charge who some would argue has to be considered a good hire as commissioner on this deal alone. While many things in the conference needed a makeover and some of his decisions have been questionable (we will likely never know if adding Colorado and Utah really made financial sense), he had one task far more important than any when he took over as commissioner. He was brought in to overhaul the conference's media rights deal and he didn't just overhaul it. Scott turned it into the biggest deal in college sports.

The particulars, beyond the $3 billion over the life of the deal and $250 million annually are as follows:

  • The deal is with ESPN and Fox with enough of the conference's own events maintained to allow for the creation of a Pac-12 Network.
  • Fox has the rights to 22 Pac-12 football games annually. Eight of those will be on the over-the-air Fox network (four in prime time) and the remaining 14 will be on FX, which is available in 99 million homes. Fox also has the rights to the Pac-12 Championship Game in even years, which will be broadcast in prime time on a Friday night on Fox.
  • ESPN gets the rights to 22 football games of their own, including eight on Thursday or Friday nights, a weekly 7:30 pm PT game and two ABC prime time games per year. ESPN also gets the rights to the Pac-12 Championship Game in odd years, which will be broadcast on a Friday night.
  • Fox will have the rights to 22 men's basketball games per year as well as three Pac-12 Tournaments beginning in 2014.
  • ESPN will broadcast a total on 46 men's basketball games on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays as the Pac-12 ditches their Thursday/Saturday scheduling for a more flexible schedule.
  • The Pac-12 Tournament will seen Fox/FX or ESPN/ESPN2 as well as the Pac-12 Network. Fox/FX and ESPN/ESPN2 will alternate years televising a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and the championship game with the balance of games televised on the Pac-12 Network.
  • ESPN has the rights to up to 80 live events per year, which includes the 22 football games, the men's basketball games, women's basketball games and olympic sports as well for the first time. ESPN also has the rights to the women's basketball tournament.
  • A Pac-12 Network will be created and will show 350 live events each year. All football and men's basketball games not covered by the deals with Fox or ESPN will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network, as well as an array of non-revenue/olympic sports.
  • Pac-12 Digital Networks is being created and will be an online channel similar to ESPN3 that will show all games on Pac-12, as well as additional events live online. With Pac-12 Digital Networks comes additional mobile and social media technology for the conference's events as well.
So those are the particulars. It is a mega deal with an incredible amount of exposure to go along with the mind-boggling financial numbers. 

The big question here will be that Pac-12 Network and how the conference can get it picked up by cable and satellite carriers. If the conference can get the Pac-12 Network on your cable or satellite carrier then you will be able to watch every single football and women's basketball game played each and every season, along with most women's basketball games and many other olympic sports. It would be the ideal set up with maximum exposure for the conference and its fans IF they can get the network on all of the cable and satellite providers, something the Big 10 Network had problems getting done so it will be worth keeping an eye on that.

A huge plus longterm to the Pac-12 Network is that it will be completely owner by the conference. The Big 10 Network is only 51% owned by the Big 10, with Fox owning the remaining 49%. The Pac-12 Network will be completely owned by the Pac-12 so as the conference grows and expands, the conference will keep all of the revenue generated by the conference. Short term, the conference will be put back a bit because they will have to fund all of the start up costs for the Pac-12 Network, something that has been estimated at $100 million.

In the press conference, Scott said, "what I'm excited about, I think about how we promote the conference, promote the brand." This is a novel concept with a conference that has long done everything it could to play down its brand with as little promotion as possible it seemed like. With that push to promote the brand comes Pac-12 Properties Enterprises, which will handle the sponsorships and marketing of the conference. That includes all of the sponsorship, operation and marketing of the Pac-12 Championship Game and Pac-12 Tournament.

With the conference operating the Pac-12 Tournament under this new deal, the possibility of the event leaving Staples Center and Los Angeles becomes a very real possibility. Currently, Fox Sports operates the tournament as part of their TV deal to broadcast it and with their home base in Los Angeles, Fox Sports has made it clear that they wanted the tournament in Los Angeles, which they made permanent by contracting the tournament to Staples Center through 2012. Now that Fox Sports will not operate the tournament, the Pac-12 can move their tournament to any number of other cities, something that some coaches have been pushing for.

In all, the Pac-12 will be a very different conference than the Pac-10 and it has less to do with the two extra members than it does the lots of extra money. In 2012-2013, the conference will more then quadruple their television revenue with the potential to even add to that depending on the success of the Pac-12 Network. With the exception of Oregon, Pac-12 teams have struggled to compete with the Big 10, SEC and Big 12 teams in facilities, but this TV deal will allow for more investment in facilities. It will also allow for more investment in coaches and with the increased exposure, schools should be able to generate more excitement around their teams and push for extra donations. 

Moving forward, the Pac-12 has their money now and not just a little money here and there. This is an incredible jump in money and completely changes the make up of the conference. Now going forward, what's the next new and exciting idea for the conference. UCLA vs. Arizona from the Tokyo Dome in September 2013 maybe?

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