Originally met with skepticism, Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott is channeling his inner Pacman Jones and making it rain all over the west coast. On Wednesday, the former head of the Women's Tennis Association is set to announce a $3 billion media deal with ESPN and FOX for the next 12 years.
The deal, first reported by the Sports Business Journal, will cover football, basketball and all Olympic sports. FOX and ESPN will share football rights including the conference championship game beginning next year. The new contract will average out to $250 million a year or $20.8 million annually per school.
The Pac-12 television number is now tops in college football, with the Big 10 raking in $220 million per year and the SEC getting a paltry $205 million a year. (No word yet on how Mike Slive and Jim Delaney took the news.)
Welcome to the league, Colorado and Utah! You will now get paid more than Alabama, Ohio State, Florida and Michigan!
The new Big 12 deal with FOX almost pales in comparison to the Pac-12 pact. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe managed to negotiate $1.2 billion over 13 years, but apparently the lack of a championship game is a much bigger financial blow than many thought.
How the second year-commissioner managed to pull this off with a historically sleepy league in the wrong time zone may seem like a mystery to many. The answer, as CBSSports.com columnist Dennis Dodd pointed out, is all about advertising and taking advantage of the one sure thing on television.
As Dodd says, "Even the strongest TV series are cancelled. Try taking Alabama-Auburn off the air."
He's absolutely correct. College football fans love talking about how long they have been playing their rivals (not to mention how many times they've won, 83 to 16, Pokies...), and there's a good chance they're going to play each other as long as both schools exist.
In the current climate, advertisers have to justify every dollar spent. Sports provides the one outlet that is almost always watched live and rarely DVR'ed. That means commercials don't get zipped through. Sporting events also allow advertisers to create an impression among the most coveted demographic you can hit: males between the ages of 18 and 35.
Big East or Big Least?
The one league that has to be feeling the heat is the Big East. It's the only BCS conference that hasn't renegotiated in the last year, and it's now getting left in the dust. Commissioner John Marinatto is returning to the negotiating table at the end of the 2012 season, but you have to wonder if the spending spree will still be on?
The league's basketball brand, the addition of TCU – convenient timing – and the continued success of West Virginia in football should mean the Big East will see a nice figure. But, it may not be anywhere near the numbers we've seen recently.
Don't discount the prospect of Comcast/NBC/Versus flying into the picture when Big East negotiations start to heat up. Comcast desperately wanted first- and second-tier rights action with the Pac-12, but ultimately fell short. This will be the last piece of major inventory for sale for a long while, and the network may go all in to make sure it gets a piece of college programming in the next decade.