Layoffs across the media and tech worlds have had plenty of impacts. Now, they’re being cited as a key reason why the Pac-12’s next TV deal (set to start ahead of the 2024-25 season) has not yet been announced. That’s as per comments from Washington State president Kirk Schulz in a conversation on college athletics with WSU regent Enrique Cerna that the university published on YouTube Thursday:
Here’s a transcription of some of the key comments from Schulz (who’s on the conference’s executive committee) there, from Jon Wilner of the (San Jose) Mercury News:
“I think it’s just the environment. It’s the uncertainty in the economy, the layoffs in the tech sector and other places.
“I know at least one of the partners we were talking to said, ‘We’re ready to sign today, but the optics of us announcing that we’re laying off X number of people and we signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the Pac-12 are just not the best, so we’re going to have to wait six weeks.’
“Clearly, the optics are something those folks are really worried about.”
…“If you said when would be the worst time in the last six years to try and negotiate a media deal, probably the last five months is pretty close to the worst.”
As Wilner notes, that is suggestive that the conference is indeed talking to either ESPN (a subject of some recent uncertainty) or Amazon (or perhaps both), as those companies are the main ones that have both been publicly linked to the Pac-12 and have recently announced major layoffs. Apple, also linked to the conference, has not announced layoffs. And neither have some of the more unusual networks linked to the Pac-12, including Ion and The CW. Schulz does also say that their deal is expected to involve multiple media companies and both linear and streaming, which fits the other reports to this point.
And there’s some logic to spacing out the timing of that announcement. As AA’s Joe Lucia noted last month, there isn’t necessarily a big rush for the Pac-12 unless schools are actually threatening to leave without an announced deal, and it’s far from clear that they are at this point. And yes, the Pac-12 is going to get a large amount of money from some company or (more likely) companies, and it’s understandable why those companies might want to have that come out at a different point than when their layoffs are making headlines.
That last above-quoted sentence from Schulz is interesting, though, and it helps speak to some of the issues the Pac-12 is currently facing. This is a time when a lot of those tech and media companies are in significant cost-cutting mode. And while Pac-12 figures initially sounded pleased last fall when the Big 12 signed their own deal, and said they were “optimistic” of beating it, the environment has shifted since then, and in a way that’s probably not great for the Pac-12. And on the timeline front, the conference has put itself under further scrutiny with unusual statements on the revenues they’re expecting and the expectations on when a deal would be announced. But these comments from Schulz do make it sound like there may be a deal with ESPN or Amazon coming, just a little later.
[The Mercury News; photo of the Pac-12 logo at their 2022 football conference championship game from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports]