Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Pac-12 is in a far worse place than the other Power 5 conferences, especially when it comes to the conference-specific network.
In a series of features delving into the conference’s finances, Jon Wilner of the Mercury News revealed just how bad the situation is becoming.
On Tuesday, Wilner estimated the payouts for the Power 5 conferences, based on figures revealed last week by USA Today. Those numbers has the Pac-12 at $19.8 million per school, far behind the other four conferences (the Big 12, at $35.6 million, was the next-lowest).
And while Wilner noted that things should change once the fiscal year 2022 results are reported (next spring), the Pac-12 is falling further thanks to the strength of the ACC Network’s distribution, thanks to its partnership with ESPN.
Conferences manage their distributions differently, making apples-to-apples comparisons a tad fraught. But just two years ago, the Pac-12 was sending $2 million to $3 million more to its schools (on average) than the ACC.
The expanding carriage of the ACC Network, which is owned by ESPN, changed that dynamic.
With distribution climbing to 80 percent for the entirety of the 2020-21 sports calendar, according to USA Today, the ACC would have passed the Pac-12 in revenue distributions even if the Pac-12 had played a normal football season in the fall of 2020.
Through the end of the 2024 fiscal year, Wilner estimates that the Pac-12 will remain last in payouts of the Power 5, calculating the conference at paying over $25 million less per school than the ACC over the four years in question.
So, what about the Pac-12 Networks? Wilner notes that at the end of 2020, they had 14.8 million subscribers (a number that is likely to be lower now), compared to around 50 million for BTN (an SBJ article from January pegged BTN at 54 million subscribers, though data for the other conference networks were not available). He also noted that the Pac-12 Networks receive 13 cents per subscriber per month, compared to 59 cents for BTN. The disparity in both subscribers and carriage fees results in a situation where the Pac-12 Networks have roughly a quarter of a value of BTN, without even taking the quality and quantity of included content.
Wilner also estimates that the Pac-12 Networks will pay each school around $25 million total over the dozen years since the networks’ founding, far less than what was initially imagined.
The short story here is that the Pac-12 is slipping further behind its competition, and something will need to be done with the networks as part of the conference’s new rights deals if it has an aim on catching up with its peers across the country.