The Pac-12 Networks had plenty of challenges long before the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, from falling distribution numbers and per-subscriber fees to declining overall revenues and payouts to schools to a dramatic reduction in planned on-site productions this spring. But as with other media outlets, they’re also now facing new financial issues from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on businesses and advertising, and as with many other outlets, part of their response involves layoffs. Jon Wilner of The (San Jose) Mercury News has more on the Pac-12 Networks’ layoffs, part of an overall cost-reduction plan from the conference:
The moves include a 20 percent salary reduction for commissioner Larry Scott and 10 percent cuts for members of his senior staff in both conference and networks divisions. The cuts will remain in place for the remainder of the school year, then be revisited this summer.
…In addition, the Pac-12 Networks will reduce its workforce by eight percent as part of “a new strategic and financial restructuring plan,” according to an internal memo obtained by the Hotline.
The move is expected to impact approximately a dozen full-time employees. (They were notified Monday morning.)
“The new strategic plan is designed to adapt our organization to the fiscal realities of the very rapidly changing media landscape and the current financial pressures brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, and set us up for future success,” Scott wrote in the memo.
Wilner reports that this will also include a hiring freeze across both the conference and network divisions (with exceptions for essential functions), a pause on travel, discretionary spending and capital projects, a cancellation of in-person meetings and more. But it’s the layoffs that are particularly notable here; around 12 full-time employees just got let go, and in the current media landscape where everyone’s laying off people and there are no sports to air, it’s going to be tough for them to find anything else quickly.
This piece is also significant for its discussion of the conference’s overall finances, as Wilner writes that they’re expecting total revenues for fiscal 2020 to drop by $15.5 million, about $1.3 million per school. As he wrote in an earlier piece, a lot of that comes from the cancellation of the Pac-12 and NCAA men’s basketball tournaments. That could be somewhat mitigated by business interruption insurance or by use of a reserve fund, but it’s clear the conference is still going to take a big financial hit this year. And that’s part of why they’re going to these cost-cutting measures.
It’s also notable to see Scott and his senior staff taking paycuts, and those are in line with the reductions taken by NCAA president Mark Emmert (20 percent) and his vice presidents (10 percent). But they’re still making quite a bit of money; Scott was credited with $5.3 million in compensation in fiscal 2018, making him the second-highest-paid conference commissioner that year (just behind Jim Delany of the Big Ten, who was credited with $5.5 million). And several of the senior staff are making more than $500,000 annually as per Wilner’s piece.
So, a 20 percent cut applied over the whole year would have Scott still making $4.24 million in compensation. And a 10 percent cut for the senior staff would leave them making $450,000 or more annually. And these cuts are only set for a few months at this point, and will be reevaluated in the summer. But hey, at least the travel freeze means the Pac-12 isn’t going to be spending $7,500 a night on a hotel suite any time soon.