Last Friday, the Pac-12 Conference announced that they had fired two senior executives who failed to disclose overpayments by a distribution partner since 2016. Now we know some more details, including the distribution partner in question.
According to Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, Comcast was the partner who had overpaid the Pac-12 by over $50 million since 2016. After Comcast surfaced concerns of overpayments to the conference in October 2022 , the conference launched their own investigation which resulted in the firings of CFO Brent Willman and Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken for failing to disclose the results of the conference’s earlier audit of the matter to the Pac-12 Board of Directors.
Wilner’s story shines a light on some of the more intricate details of the investigation and how we got here. For one, when the initial investigation took place in 2017, Pac-12 executives initially thought Comcast was underpaying. Instead, the independent auditors determined Comcast was overpaying by “about $5 million annually, according to sources.”
After the independent investigation, Pac-12 auditors would then do their own investigation which came to the same conclusion the independent auditors had- Comcast overpaid and the Pac-12 would likely have to reimburse the company at some point for those overpayments.
So how exactly did these overpayments materialize and not get noticed?
The issue was that the Pac-12 didn’t have access to Comcast’s subscriber data and Comcast was essentially paying the conference using their own data. The error is believed to be that Comcast paid the conference twice as much as they should have for a small amount of subscribers.
As for how this went unnoticed for so long, per Wilner’s reporting, “The results were so different than what they expected that they didn’t close the audit. So Comcast was never informed.”
With Comcast continuing to overpay, that’s how the total figure added up to $50 million, which possibly is likely to be repaid with the Pac-12 discounting future payments from Comcast for the rest of the carriage agreement until the $50 million is fully paid back.
It didn’t seem like there was any malice throughout any of this, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Pac-12 Conference has to pay Comcast back a much larger amount now than if they had fixed the problem back then.