Last week, a pair of Pac-12 executives were fired after an investigation revealed that the pair did not disclose overpayments by a distribution partner, later revealed to be Comcast.

The two executives were CFO Brent Willman and Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken. And while the conference will be searching for a replacement for Willman, Jon Wilner of the Mercury News reports that Shuken’s role will go unfilled.

Could that mean the end of the Pac-12 Networks? Wilner explains why that move, combined with the conference’s recent decision to move to San Ramon from San Francisco, might make it so.

In combination with the decision to move production facilities to an office in the East Bay, the decision to not replace Shuken provides insight into the future of the networks.

Commissioner George Kliavkoff has stated publicly that the Pac-12 will remain in the content production business during the next media contract cycle, which begins in the summer of 2024.

The decision to lease 42,000 square feet in the East Bay city of San Ramon is evidence of the strategy.

That said, there is no indication the Pac-12 Networks will exist in their current form — as a media distribution company.

In fact, the news release issued two weeks ago about the move to San Ramon was framed this way: The Pac-12 “announced the relocation of its San Francisco production studio …”

It said nothing about the Pac-12 Networks, the linear media company with a national feed and six regional feeds.

If the media company is going away — if it’s being downscaled to a production unit — there’s no need for a network president.

Wilner goes on to explain that the Pac-12’s new setup in San Ramon could end up producing just the streaming-exclusive content, or could produce that content along with producing live sports content for a digital company.

The logic makes sense, especially when combined with the Pac-12’s media rights deals. Last summer, a mooted alliance between the ACC and Pac-12 would have shifted content from the Pac-12 Networks to ACC Network. Amazon has been linked to the conference, and could provide a home for the hundreds of events that previously lived on the Pac-12 Networks. Existing rights partner ESPN has also been linked (for better and worse), and the company lusts after content for ESPN+.

While there are still a lot (all) of details to work out with the Pac-12’s new media rights deals, it seems unfathomable to think that the Pac-12 Networks will remain in their current form once the new agreements go into effect.

[Mercury News]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.