Here at the Hotline, we have been following the money since the days of the Pac-10 and warning of a massive revenue shortfall relative to the SEC and Big Ten for almost as long — even in the face of alternate narratives put forth by the former commissioner.
But it’s always valuable to hear other opinions, so we’d like to offer one.
An expert opinion, in fact.
Navigate is a Chicago-based market research company that crunches data for teams and leagues at both the professional and college levels.
Their analytics specialists recently published estimates of future revenues for each Power Five conference through the decade. The modeling took into account the sizzling market for sports media rights and the presumed expansion of the College Football Playoff.
Navigate’s conclusions paint a grim picture for Pac-12 revenue relative to the SEC and Big Ten. We won’t publish all the data here — for that, you can jump directly to the company’s site.
Instead, let’s pick estimates from two years.
— First, projected distributions per school in 2025:
Big Ten: $75.2 million
SEC: $74.9 million
Big 12: $44.3 million
Pac-12: $42.6 million
ACC: $39.6 million
— Next, projected distributions per school in 2029:
SEC: $117.8 million
Big Ten: $101.1 million
Pac-12: $62.8 million
ACC: $61.5 million
Big 12: $57.5 million
By the end of the decade, Navigate projects that Pac-12 athletic departments will receive approximately half the annual revenue of their peers in the SEC and 60 percent of those in the Big Ten.
Naturally, Navigate made a series of assumptions with its modeling, including this:
“The 12-team CFP payout model is adjusted to reward performance more than CFP has historically done. This would transform the CFP payout to be more aligned with the NCAA Basketball Tournament model.”
(Because the SEC and Big Ten have sent more teams to the playoff than the Pac-12 to this point, the Navigate model tilts that future revenue stream in their favor.)
The Hotline is slightly more bullish on the Pac-12 in the upcoming media rights negotiations than many industry observers.
That said, there is no scenario in which the conference comes close to matching the SEC and Big Ten revenue from their media partners.
Those leagues have more football brands, more passionate fans, larger alumni bases and better time zones — all the ingredients that drive TV ratings, which, in turn, drive media contracts — than the Pac-12.
And that revenue gap, both current and future, has been apparent to us for close to a decade.
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