Pac-12 hits windfall with TV contract
While announcing the Pac-12 Conference’s record-setting television contract, commissioner Larry Scott uttered the sentence that frustrated Bay Area fans have waited years to hear:
Every football and men’s basketball game will be televised.
Exposure “was always paramount to every discussion we had,” Scott said Wednesday.
The 12-year, $3 billion deal with Fox and ESPN—the richest ever for a college sports conference—includes the formation of a Pac-12 television network and complimentary online portals, scheduled to launch in August 2012 when the new TV contract kicks in.
But massive increases in exposure and revenue for the conference are the most significant components of the deal.
Each school will receive an average of $21 million annually—approximately four times the amount generated by the current contracts with Fox and ESPN. (The deal has an escalator clause: The payouts in Year 1 will be less than $21 million; those at the back end will be greater.)
That windfall will help cash-strapped athletic departments on multiple fronts: reducing dependence on university support; paying market rate for coaches and expanding recruiting budgets; and preserving Olympic and women’s sports.
“This announcement,” Scott said, “has saved sports that would have been cut.”
It also will provide an immeasurable boost to the moneymakers: football and men’s basketball.
Access to the Bowl Championship Series and NCAA tournament depends on subjective factors. With greater visibility, Pac-12 teams have more opportunities to impress top-25 voters and basketball selection committee members.
Recruiting will benefit, as well, with dozens of games on ESPN—the highly influential network that has largely ignored the Pac-10 for years.
“The exposure we’re getting “& is substantial for men’s basketball,” Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. “It’s a clear step up for us.”
Football and men’s basketball games will be shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ABC, Fox, FX, Fox Sports Net and the Pac-12 Network. (The events shown by Fox Sports Net will be broadcast on Comcast in the Bay Area.)
There will be eight football games on Thursday and Friday nights, along with Saturday prime-time matchups on ABC and the Fox broadcast network.
There will be basketball games on Wednesday and Sunday, in addition to the league’s long-standing Thursday-Saturday schedule.
Events not shown on the Fox or ESPN families will be available on the Pac-12 television and digital networks.
“They will all be available in all the markets,” Bowlsby said.
Other details from the television deal:
— The football championship game will be played on Friday, in prime time on the East Coast.
Fox will broadcast the 2011 game under a one-year deal it cut with the conference in January. Starting in 2012, it will alternate between Fox and ESPN.
— ESPN, Fox and the Pac-12 Network will hold what amounts to a draft to determine the football broadcast lineup, with the league’s network getting “first pick” on two occasions.
— Five women’s basketball games will be shown each season by ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, and 200 Olympic sports events will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.
“It means opportunities for hundreds of student-athletes who have not gotten the exposure that their excellence deserves,” Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said.
— The conference will determine the location of the basketball tournaments starting in 2012. Scott said he will begin “reaching out to different cities” to gauge their interest.
— Scott has not completed plans for the Pac-12 Network. But with a stockpile of inventory that includes 36 football games, he expressed confidence that widespread distribution will be attained quickly.
— The Pac-12 Network will include a significant educational component, including the formation of “media labs” at various schools, where students can create new technologies and develop programming ideas.