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Report: Pac-12 set to see US$200m drop off in next media rights deal

USC and UCLA departures hurting conference’s chances of lucrative deal.

10 March 2023 Josh Sim

Getty Images

  • Apple, Amazon and ESPN considered suitors for the rights
  • Pac-12 considering four colleges for expansion

US college sport’s Pac-12 conference is set to see US$200 million fall off the value of its next media rights deal following the departures of the University of Southern California (USC) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), according to the Los Angeles Times.

Last July, USC and UCLA confirmed their plans to switch to the Big Ten in 2024, dealing the Pac-12 a huge blow given both schools’ large following. As a result, the LA Times reports, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is finding it difficult to negotiate an agreement worth the US$300 million the remaining ten colleges are said to be looking for.

The Pac-12 is a victim of timing in terms of its struggles in media rights negotiations, with broadcasters said to be less willing to splash out in the current economic climate. However, according to John Canzano, a Pac-12 specialist reporter, the conference is confident in matching or beating the Big 12’s media rights deal, which will see each member receive US$31.7 million per year.

According to ESPN, an update on the rights negotiations is due to be provided to the Pac-12’s board, but no final deal is expected to be agreed imminently, despite members being keen for resolution in order to provide financial certainty. The Pac-12 is thought not to be considering any streaming-only media contract that would exclude a traditional linear TV component. However, the possibility for a streaming platform such as Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video to buy the rights and then sublicense them to a linear network remains an option. Lanzano reports that the presence of Amazon and Apple has meant negotiations have slowed down as a result.

The Pac-12’s current broadcast partner, ESPN, is also a suitor for the rights, The Athletic says, although Disney chief executive Bob Iger recently warned that sports broadcasting giant would need to be “more selective” in the rights it acquired going forward.

Meanwhile, the search for replacements for the Pac-12’s two outgoing Californian institutions is ongoing, with Canzano reporting that four are under consideration. They include the Southern Methodist University (SMU), and San Diego State, with Colorado State also a rumoured candidate. Academic fit and culture are said to be important among the conference’s expansion criteria, as well as the need to add media value. Of the rumoured candidates, San Diego State is considered most likely, with Canzano describing the college to have been in ‘regular contact’ with the Pac-12.

Yet the conference could also be at risk of losing more members, with the ‘Four Corner’ schools of Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado all holding talks with the Big 12, although ESPN suggests these discussions were ‘minimal’. However, The Athletic says Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is confident of convincing the quartet to leave the Pac-12.

Oregon, a school often thought of as another that could leave the Pac-12, remains committed to the conference, according to Canzano.

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