Pac-12 Deal in the works with Fox And ESPN

There is no official word yet, but rumblings out of Walnut Creek, CA, and confirmed by the Sports Business Journal, is that the Pac-12 has reached agreement with Fox Sports, and supplementally with ESPN, for the new television rights deal.

The deal is expected to be worth more than $2.7 billion over 12 years (speculation exists that the final figure could top $3 billion), beginning with the 2012-13 school year, which averages out to more than $225 million per year, or about $18.75 million per school, over twice the current amount. This would render the clause where USC & UCLA get a larger share of the revenue moot, as the cutoff for that is $170 million annually.

A formal announcement could be coming Wednesday from the Conference spring meetings, being held in Phoenix, AZ, after some of the fine details are worked out. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has a press conference scheduled for 8 AM PDT tomorrow.

Fox is a primary partner and so is ESPN, as the networks will split up the Pac-12 football games. The distribution of basketball is not as clear yet, likely one of the main issues still being worked out.

It also remains to be seen what kinds of time-slot window block-out provisions may be in place. Hopefully, nothing more than a order of preference in selecting games, and an end to blocking out broadcast windows, which has contributed significantly to the log-jam on scheduling, and a greater than desirable number of games being relegated to less desirable time slots, or blacked out all together.

One of the big wins for the Conference, and conference football fans, is that Fox will carry football games on its Fox broadcast channel in primetime, and on FX, as well as and not on the FSN network of regional channels, and affiliates, like ROOT sports. Fox will carry basketball games on FSN. ESPN will utilize ESPN2 and ESPNU, and ABC will be an outlet as well.

ESPN and Fox will rotate coverage of the Pac-10's basketball tournament and football championship game.

On the positive side, Comcast is not involved. This is a significant point, given that much of Comcast's current offerings is not available to a significant amount of the Pac-12's footprint, particularly in the northwest. While the major markets are covered, at least in their core areas, much of the region is not.

A potential issue is that the deal does not apparently include the establishment of a Pac-12 network, at least not yet with one of the media partners. ESPN reportedly has included a package of "Olympic" sports in what it will air as a part of the deal, and the Conference has retained rights to some events as well INCLUDING some football. The deal does not preclude a network, and it is widely anticipated that Scott will come to some arrangement to create one. The conference will own and run the Pac-12 Network. But without the direct involvement of Fox, it could be difficult to gain penetration into cable and satellite programming packages, even if the network/channel is created. Internet penetration can depend on details about provider contracts as well. Carriage arrangements at the local level can be a big obstacle.

This issue can become important when peak/overload schedules involving non-conference games produce a time-slot specific glut of programming, and also for coverage of baseball, softball, and potentially other significant games that might wind up in conflict with other high-value programming.

On the flip side, the Pac-12 could eventually realize a material amount of additional revenue, given they will not be sharing the revenue stream.

Watch for more details in the days to come.

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