The Pac-12 won’t announce a long-awaited media rights deal before or during its preseason football media showcase Friday in Las Vegas, according to conference sources. Instead, the event will focus on the teams, players and coaches underpinning the conference’s most anticipated football season in years.
Of course, the best-laid plans can be laid to waste by the forces of realignment. Commissioner George Kliavkoff is sure to face questions about an existential crisis that began 55 weeks ago, when USC and UCLA announced they would join the Big Ten in 2024, and remains unresolved.
Exactly what Kliavkoff will say about the saga during his remarks at Resorts World Las Vegas, and during the subsequent question-and-answer session with reporters, is not clear at this point.
However, the timing of the Big Ten’s media agreement last summer has always seemed instructive: The conference unveiled its groundbreaking deal with Fox, NBC and CBS on Aug. 18 — two weeks before the start of the 2022 football season.
A parallel track for the Pac-12 would give Kliavkoff another month (approximately) to present the 10 university presidents with a finalized contract. (Eight votes are required for approval.)
Will the deal include a package of football and men’s basketball games on ESPN?
How many will be shown on streaming platforms?
Will there be a reduction in football night games?
Will the six- and 12-day selection windows, a source of immense frustration for fans, remain in place?
And crucially, will the annual valuation reach the threshold needed to prompt the presidents to sign the essential grant-of-rights agreement, which binds each school’s media rights to the conference?
Those details are likely to remain far from public view on Friday and, perhaps, until the deal is announced.
Conference executives are “super confident” in the outcome, according to a source. “The patience the presidents have shown is about to pay off. The longer we wait, the more bidders there are and the better the outcome.”
That outlook tracks loosely with the strategy Kliavkoff referenced in December — the last time he spoke publicly about the Pac-12’s media negotiations. (He will have gone 225 days, from Dec. 7 to July 21, without uttering a public peep on the topic.)
“There’s no need for a rush,” Kliavkoff said then during a college athletics forum in Las Vegas. “We are the last Power Five conference with our rights available for the next eight years.”
Once the Big Ten and Big 12 locked in their media deals in the second half of 2022, the Pac-12 had cornered the remaining supply of Power Five inventory.
But at the time, demand was soft. Major media companies were announcing, or undergoing, cost-cutting measures in advance of an expected recession.
Seven months and several rounds of layoffs later, the macro-economic environment seemingly is beginning to recover.
The Pac-12 presidents were willing to “wait it out for people to come back to the (negotiating) table,” a source said. “They locked arms and fought through the last nine-to-12 months.”
Will the reward be lucrative enough in annual dollars and advantageous enough with its media partners to prevent schools from defecting to the Big 12?
The resolution could (finally) come in the next six weeks.
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