No vote yet on PAC-12 media deal

Published 12:53 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The Associated Press

With speculation swirling about the future of the Pac-12, Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented details of a long-awaited media rights deal to league stakeholders who concluded Tuesday’s meeting without voting on whether to accept the terms, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

The meeting comes just days after Colorado decided not to wait and see what Kliavkoff could deliver and announced it would re-join the Big 12 in 2024 while USC and UCLA are leaving at the same time for the Big Ten. With nine members still committed to trying to stick it out, the media rights deal could make or break the Pac-12.

Email newsletter signup

The person discussed the meeting with AP on the condition of anonymity because the Pac-12 is not making its internal discussion public, and gave no details about prospective network or streaming partners nor the value. ESPN reported the deal would make Apple’s online streaming service, Apple TV, the primary home of Pac-12 football games, and the total value would be dependent on the number of subscriptions purchased.

For comparison, Major League Soccer, the 29-team league in the U.S. and Canada, is in the first year of an exclusive 10-year deal with Apple TV that pays $250 million annually. Top-tier college football is generally considered a more valuable television property than MLS.

Two people familiar with the Pac-12’s meeting called it a “positive and productive” session, but told AP another gathering of the league’s presidents, chancellors and athletic directors was not immediately scheduled.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which controls both Arizona and fellow Pac-12 school Arizona State, met later Tuesday and quickly went into executive session behind closed doors. It was unclear whether conference affiliation and the media rights deal was discussed. Arizona President Robert C. Robbins has multiple times stated his desire to have Arizona stay in the Pac-12 while making it clear that staying put also needs to make financial sense.

Wildcats football coach Jedd Fisch told reporters Tuesday he has been meeting with parents of players to assure them Arizona’s future will be secure.

“We’re in a position where people want us,” Fisch said, adding he expects a decision on conference affiliation soon.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has been blunt about the conference’s desire to expand West, with Pac-12 schools as obvious expansion targets. Arizona has been considered the most likely to jump, along with Arizona State and Utah; Colorado made its decision last week.

The Big 12 agreed last fall to a six-year extension on its media right deal with ESPN and Fox that will pay each school about $32 million per year. That deal has not been officially announced, but it set a measuring stick for the Pac-12 in its pursuit of an agreement many hope will keep the league together for at least another five or six years.

The remaining Pac-12 members have been steadfast in wanting to see what kind of a pay day Kliavkoff can secure.

That became more challenging last fall when the Big 12 jumped in and agreed to an extension almost two years before its current deals expire. That seemed to limit the Pac-12’s options, with ESPN and Fox having less of need for the conference’s content — a need that would decrease further if the Big 12 had more teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Oregon and Washington are the Pac-12’s remaining most notable brands. After the Big Ten added USC and UCLA there was speculation the Ducks and Huskies could be next, though new Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti has tried to tamp down talk of further expansion.

Northern California schools Stanford and California, both elite academic institutions, might be of some interest to the Big Ten. They also have similar profiles to several Atlantic Coast Conference schools, but are nowhere near any of them.

Oregon State and Washington State seem most in danger of being left out of a so-called power conference altogether.

The Pac-12 has already reached out to San Diego State and SMU about possibly joining the conference as replacements for USC and UCLA, but first the current members must decide if they want to stick around.