The Big 12’s new media rights deals with ESPN and Fox, which will pay a reported $380 million per season (roughly $31.7 million per school), means that all eyes are now pivoting to the Pac-12. Will the conference be able to score an acceptable batch of rights deals, or will they fall short, leading to members jumping to greener pastures?
Believe it or not, the Pac-12 doesn’t seem to be concerned. Per the Sports Business Journal, conference officials are feeling “relief” after learning about the Big 12’s new rights deals, and are “optimistic” about agreeing to superior rights deals of their own.
Pac-12 officials’ initial reaction when they heard of the Big 12’s deal was relief. Big 12 schools each will receive around $31 million per school as part of the deal, and Pac-12 officials are optimistic that they will be able to eclipse that figure. This means that unless the Big Ten or SEC come calling, it’s unlikely a Pac-12 school will be persuaded to leave the conference.
The reason for that optimism is because it’s free game on the Pac-12’s rights after the expiration of the exclusive negotiation window with ESPN and Fox. The Big 12, on the other hand, was restricted to talking to just ESPN and Fox since they were still a year and a half away from the start of their exclusive window.
ESPN and Amazon are reportedly the front-runners for the Pac-12’s rights, both of which have previously been linked to the conference. Apple, current partner Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery have also talked with the conference per SBJ.
Interestingly, it also appears that per school payouts from neither the Big 12 nor the Pac-12 will exceed the ACC through its all-encompassing rights deal with ESPN.
ESPN took pains to make sure that its Big 12 deal would not result in a bigger per-school payout than the ACC. Because of the ACC Network, it’s difficult to determine how much ACC schools make from its ESPN deal. But I was told that the Big 12 will not eclipse the ACC on that front at any point during the Big 12’s deal, which runs through 2030-31. ESPN is likely to approach Pac-12 negotiations in a similar way.
So, we could definitely see a situation where the Pac-12 gets a smaller total value than the Big 12, but ends up paying out more to schools since the conference will only have ten members in the near future, compared to the eventual 12 for the Big 12. That seems like a decent way for both conferences to save face, though we’ll have to wait and see if the Pac-12’s new media rights deals exceed the $320 million per season needed to top the Big 12’s new payouts