While it now looks like the Pac-12’s media deal (if it does happen) is most likely to be primarily a streaming deal with Apple, the conference has been publicly linked to a variety of linear networks as well. But the news cycle here has usually seen reports on the Pac-12 and those networks followed by other reports saying that wasn’t likely to actually happen. That’s included specific reports downplaying CBS, Warner Bros. Discovery, Fox, and Ion (in February), and eventually even the CW (in April).
One network that hasn’t seen as many public refutations is NBC, though. And that’s interesting considering that the Pac-12 doesn’t seem to be a particularly good fit there, given the primetime content they already have with the Big Ten and Notre Dame and given their limited sports-specific space on linear TV after their shutdown of NBCSN. Despite all that, though, NBC was still reportedly somewhat on the table in some fashion until very recently.
As part of a big piece Tuesday night on the current state of the Pac-12 and what may be ahead for the conference, Ross Dellenger of Yahoo Sports reported on the conference’s talks with NBC. He spelled out that they talked to the network on three separate occasions, including as recently as last month. But NBC didn’t bite in the end.
Pac-12 miscalculated the market, got out-played by a rival & is now teetering on collapse. Its future hinges on the Arizonas.
A deep dive on latest realignment wave, where even ACC & B1G could get caught in its surge.
“It’s standing on a knife’s edge.”https://t.co/YJ9omY3J9w
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) August 2, 2023
Here’s more on the NBC angle from Dellenger’s piece:
In the most recent sign of desperate times, Pac-12 leaders last month approached NBC for at least the third time in the last year, this time with a significantly low offer.
The network passed.
“We were looking for a savior but no one seemed to want to step up,” says one Pac-12 insider.
That’s certainly interesting that the Pac-12 again tried to court NBC this late in the game. And that maybe speaks to some of the incredible delays around this media deal.
The new Pac-12 deal, which would start ahead of the 2024-25 football season, was initially expected last year. The conference said they were opening their negotiations last July, with those talks just with existing partners ESPN and Fox at that point. The exclusive window there expired in October, allowing other parties to enter the fray.
In November, after the Big 12 struck their own new deals with ESPN and Fox (which start ahead of the 2025-26 football season, and should average $31.7 million per school per season), Pac-12 officials reportedly felt “relief.” They were even “optimistic that they will be able to eclipse that figure.” But that obviously has not happened to date.
In February, the Pac-12 deals again came up for discussion, with some reports that they might need to secure expansion schools such as San Diego State and SMU before landing new deals. That led to a funny-in-retrospect statement from the conference’s board on how they “look forward to consummating successful media rights deal(s) in the very near future” and “remain highly confident in our future growth and success as a conference and united in our commitment to one another”:
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) February 13, 2023
Obviously, those deals were not consummated in the very near future. And around that time, CBS, WBD, Fox, and Ion all saw doubt cast on their involvement, with The CW then floated in April and quickly shot down. Things then got quieter for a while, with the main reports being debate on whether or not ESPN was still bidding for Tier 1 rights andWashington State president Kirk Schulz blaming media and tech layoffs for the delayed announcement.
Around the conference’s media days last month, the story again became the delay. And commissioner George Kliavkoff somehow tried to cite that as a good thing. (He has also claimed his conference will “catch” the Big Ten and the SEC, though, so everything he says should be taken with some salt.) And, soon after that, Colorado left for the Big 12, putting the lie to that “united in commitment to one another” portion of the statement.
So that’s led to this current situation, where it looks like what’s actually offered (and what Kliavkoff presented to the remaining schools Tuesday) is a primary deal with Apple and perhaps some games sublicensed to linear TV. And we’ll see if that’s enough to keep the schools happy, or if we will indeed need some “last rites” for the Pac-12.
But it’s fascinating to hear that the Pac-12 kept going back to NBC (which has had quite a few big leadership changes over this time span), including as recently as last month, and that even the low deal they eventually offered wasn’t a fit for the network. And that “We were looking for a savior” line is quite the indictment. Private TV networks and streaming companies do not tend to be in the business of “saving” specific athletic conferences at above-market prices, nor should they be.
The Pac-12 got themselves here through a series of their own moves, from the many failures of former commissioner Larry Scott (Pac-12 Networks, anyone?) through Kliavkoff’s inability to get a deal done before the Big 12 and his series of bizarre public comments through the repeated statements that an unbelievably-good deal was just around the corner. And we’ll now see if they can extract themselves. But hoping for an outside savior is not a strategy. And NBC certainly did not want to play that role.