The Pac-12 struggles to secure a new media rights deal

August 4, 2023
The Power Five conference has been looking for a new media rights deal for over a year now and in the meantime, schools are dropping out of its ranks like flies.
Sports BusinessGeneral

The GIST: The Pac-12 is going through it. The Power Five conference has been looking for a new media rights deal for over a year now and in the meantime, schools are dropping out of its ranks like flies. While the future of the Pac-12 and its TV deal hangs in the balance, women’s teams may be left wondering just where the heck they fit in.

The media rights deal: Negotiations for the Pac-12 media rights began last summer, as its current deal with ESPN and Fox expired after the 2022-23 school year. Over a year later, fans of the conference have dwindling faith. On Tuesday, a potential deal was presented with a decision expected within 48 hours, but it was reported yesterday that the school presidents would meet again today. Sigh.

  • The most promising deal is a short-term contract with Apple TV+ that could allow the conference to better compete with the other Power Five conferences. The terms of the potential deal are still unknown, but the schools are reportedly demanding $300M per year — up from the $250M annually the Pac-12 received from ESPN and Fox.
  • Plus, the streamer offers diverse content that attracts more than just sports fans, something ESPN and Fox Sports can’t offer. Sign up for Ted Lasso, stay for Pac-12 After Dark? Yes, please!

The exits: Last summer, USC and UCLA announced they’d be breaking up with the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024. And just last week, Colorado announced it would also be leaving for the Big Ten. In response, the Pac-12 released a statement saying it was focused on the media deal and would address conference alignment issues after that.

The why: The financial future of the Pac-12 was already shaky — it had the second-lowest revenue among Power Five conferences in 2022 ($580.9M), but the lowest approximate payout per school ($37M each).

  • On the flip side, the Big Ten led all conferences in 2022 revenue ($845.6M) and boasted a $58.8M payout per school. More money and a guaranteed media rights deal makes a move to the conference seem like a no-brainer.

Lingering questions: But what does conference realignment and a new media rights deal mean for women’s sports at these universities? Realignment could diminish the Pac-12’s dominance in women’s basketball, for example, while teams that leave the conference could face more expensive and further travel.

  • And while sports broadcasting veterans ESPN and Fox brought a certain level of credibility, opportunity, and exposure for women’s teams, Apple is new to sports streaming and lacks broadcast channels devoted to college sports, like ESPNU.
  • How effective will the streamer be when it comes to showing and supporting women’s sports in the Pac-12? Will an Apple TV+ deal help or hinder women student-athletes in securing NIL deals? There are a lot of questions swirling and, after more than a year, the conference needs to start giving its fans some answers. And fast.