Details Of Pac-12 Media Deal Raise Questions

By 750 The Game Staff

What will the Pac-12 media deal look like? How much streaming will be involved? How will it affect potential conference expansion?

Questions — so many questions — remain for the nine-member conference of champions as Tuesday brought some news.

John Canzano reported on 750 The Game that commissioner George Kliavkoff met with the Pac-12 CEO group Tuesday at 8 a.m. for a one-hour meeting in which details of the conference’s proposed media deal were revealed and discussed.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that Apple has emerged as a leading partner in the Pac-12’s media deal, bringing streaming to the forefront over a linear broadcast partner. An additional meeting with the CEO group is planned soon.

“I don’t know if you screamed, I don’t know if you shook your head, I don’t know if you rolled your eyes,” Canzano said to open Tuesday’s radio show. “But the Pac-12 Conference CEO group finally got numbers put in front of it today.

“Do you believe that a deal that was heavy on a streamer – Apple – does that kind of deal hold this conference together? Is it enough?”

That is the main question facing the conference. But it is hardly the only question.

Canzano reported at least one person in the room felt the group was “excited and aligned” about the deal presented. That may not reflect the attitude of everyone in the room, but provides at least some hope for optimism that the deal is a good one. Also, there’s a possibility for a linear element to be added to the package.

Still, so many questions.

Is an Apple-heavy subscription-based deal a good one?

Canzano says maybe, maybe not, but we got to ask some questions first.

“I’m left in the end kind of looking at what has happened now with the potential media partner now being Apple, and I’m going OK, what questions need to be asked?,” he said on The Game.

“Will people subscribe? Will you buy a subscription to see Pac-12 football games? I have no doubt you will if you’re a diehard Oregon or Oregon State or Washington or Washington State fan. But does it work for the whole conference? Does not having a linear partner work for the whole conference? Is it problematic?”

The Pac-12 has a chance to stand out from the competing power five conferences with a deal that embraces streaming, a direction many in the industry say is inevitable in coming years.

Some reports suggest Apple could strike a deal with ESPN to carry some of the Pac-12 games. Further, Apple could secure an equity stake in ESPN as the network aims to find a streaming-friendly partner to help its pivot into the digital space. Either way, an Apple-heavy streaming deal for the conference does not preclude it from ultimately having some games broadcast on ESPN.

But there remain some key questions.

“If this is an Apple streaming deal, there are a lot of questions that have to be unpacked,” continued Canzano. “Is the deal part of Apple TV Plus? Or is it an a add-on subscription like Apple has had with MLS? Would it be priced as an add-on? What incentives do the numbers have attached to them and when do the incentives kick in? Who produces the games? Is it Apple, is it Pac-12 Networks, is it somebody else? And is there an obligation for Apple go out and find a linear partner?”

Then comes the issue of conference expansion. Should this media deal be enough to keep the remaining nine conference members in place, the Pac-12 ultimately will look to add at least one, and perhaps three, additional universities via expansion.

San Diego State has been widely reported to be a Pac-12 expansion candidate, but carry a $34 Million buyout if they leave the Mountain West by the 2024 football season. SMU has also been bantered about as a candidate to leave the American Conference for the Pac-12, carrying the Dallas, Texas television market with it.

But Canzano points out that a media deal focused on streaming could complicate those expansion discussions.

“If you’re talking about linear providers, the Dallas-Fort Worth TV market and 2.9 Million households, that’s a lot of households you can add to the equation. But if you’re really talking to me about the fact that you’re going to require rabid sports fans to pay $9.99 or $11.99 – I don’t know what the figure is – to get Pac-12 games, I’m not sure SMU moves the needle there. I think San Diego State does, but does SMU?

“If I am following this and tracking this as I think I am, I would be prone to believe that the Pac-12’s deal would be a better deal for larger schools in smaller markets. Like I would have to think there would be more subscribers of Boise State football than for SMU football. Does it change the calculus when it comes to expansion in that way? Does SMU still appeal to the Pac-12 Conference or was SMU only part of the equation if there was a heavy linear presence? It’s really interesting.”

Canzano is digging in to find as many answers as he can on what the specifics of the media deal truly are, but in the meantime, he advises listeners to be wary of the rumor mill that splatters across Twitter and other social media platforms.

“I have not seen the deal nor has anybody on social media,” Canzano said. “But I can tell you that the nine remaining universities probably have their lawyers and consultants pouring over the details of the deal now.”

Listen to Canzano’s full comments at the top of the show and throughout the program at the podcast below.

John Canzano delivers the Bald Faced Truth afternoons 3-6 p.m. exclusively in Portland on 750 The Game.