Comcast's $50 Million Pac-12 Network Overpayment Hits Hard, With Member School ADs Enacting Budget Cuts and Hiring Freezes

Washington State Football
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The Washington State University athletic department has issued a temporary hiring freeze, as well as a pause on all non-essential business travel and purchases, as Pac-12 member schools grapple with how to settle a $50 million overpayment made by Comcast to the athletic conference's regional sports network.

“As has already been widely reported, each Pac-12 university will see a significant decrease in revenue distribution,” WSU President Kirk Schulz told the Seattle Times. “The decrease is a result of overpayments from one of the conference media partners that must be resolved.”

There are myriad budgetary factors at play, Schulz added, including the relocation of Pac-12 headquarters out of San Francisco, that's gone over-budget, as well as some internal accounting errors within the WSU athletic department that will result in the organization operating in the red this year. 

But as reported by Next TV back in January, the Comcast overpayment to Pac-12 Networks looms large, with the cable operator discovering in 2017 that it had been overcharged by about $50 million in licensing fees while carrying the RSN from 2012-2016. 

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, Comcast has elected to withhold its licensing fee payments to the Pac-12 through the end of summer 2024. That will result in a budgetary shortfall of around $4 million for each member school. 

The two executives fired amid the overpayment scandal, former Pac-12 CFO Brent Willman and Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken, have filed suit against the conference, alleging that they informed former Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott about the Comcast overpayment in a timely manner but were ordered to keep quiet about it.

The overpayment just adds to the problems for the beleaguered Pac-12, which has been struggling of late to renew its media rights deals. The Pac-12 is also dealing with the defection of its two biggest money earners, USC and UCLA, which will head to the the Big Ten starting next year. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!