ESPN, Fox Win Pac-12 TV Deal

In a closely watched deal, the Pac-12
Conference signed a 12-year, $3 billion media rights
pact with ESPN and Fox that will significantly increase
the collegiate conference’s
exposure for football, basketball,
and women’s and
Olympic sports.

The agreement, which
also drew a bid from
Comcast’s NBC Sports
Group/Versus, leaves
plenty of rights for a dedicated
linear network,
digital services and a
properties unit under
Pac-12 Enterprises.

Scheduled for an August
2012 kickoff, the
Pac-12 network will include
36 football games,
including a number of
top-fl ight contests, as the
channel will be involved
in a game-selection process
with Fox and ESPN.

“We are pleased and
confident that with our
high-quality picks for
football and basketball,
our partners will find the
rights to be significant,”
Pac-12 commissioner
Larry Scott said in an interview. (The Pac-10 conference
will become the Pac-12 on July 1, when Colorado
and Utah officially join.)

Scott said Pac-12 Enterprises is not looking to immediately
establish a distribution team, but will instead focus
on “macro strategic decisions about the kind of partnerships
we should pursue. Fundamentally, we want to determine
who would be right for the distribution process.”

Over the course of the year-long negotiation process,
Scott said, the conference had spoken to a variety
of parties, including cable and satellite distributors,
and “broadly speaking” identified five basic kinds of
distribution gambits: “We could partner with a network
group”; team with a traditional distribution
partner; engage with a
financial group; work
with a technology/digital
company looking
to get into the content
business; or “convert
an existing channel.”

Should the latter play
materialize, Scott said,
the network, which aspires
to national carriage,
would be working
from that service’s existing
rate card. “If we
start from scratch, it
would be [a] similar
structure as the Big Ten
Network,” he said.

BTN, which is 49%
owned by Fox, receives
a monthly subscriber
license fee approaching
$1 from carriers
within the eight states
in the conference’s
footprint, and a much
lower fee in the rest of
the U.S.