With the Pac-12 opening up its media rights negotiations in the aftermath of the departure of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten, rumors last week floated a potential partnership between the Conference of Champions and the ACC, with ESPN serving as the middleman.
John Canzano, a respected west coast reporter that has covered the Pac-12 media beat for years, talked with former Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson last week, who estimated the current value of the conference’s rights at $300 million a year, down from $500 million prior to the defections.
Thompson also believes Fox is “an unlikely bidder” for the Pac-12’s rights, NBC is “a non-player,” and that CBS and Turner could be possibilities, leaving ESPN clearly at the front of the line.
Canzano also brought up the idea of a partnership on his site yesterday. Some possible reasons for the partnership were mentioned, including increased revenue for the ACC Network, the ACC and its schools, and ESPN as a whole. It would also keep the Pac-12 as a conference alive with a new, long-term rights deal, though the value of that deal would be significantly less than expected.
Many of the other details of the potential Pac-12/ACC partnership are about what you’d expect and/or has already been discussed. The Pac-12 Networks would be shut down, with the conference’s Olympic sports heading to ESPN+. The ACC Network (or whatever it would be called) would get a whole lot more content, with an emphasis on college football and basketball in later timeslots. Conference crossover games also could be a thing in each of those sports, along with a possible champion vs champion football game to potentially build one team’s College Football Playoff credentials.
It’s all tentative right now, and while it sounds ridiculous at first, the concept makes more sense the more you think about it. The cross-coast alliance could benefit both conferences, strengthen the ACC Network, and put the Pac-12 Networks out of their misery.