Pac-12 Commish Calls College Sports Undervalued

The Pac-12
Conference last year signed a $3 billion TV rights deal and yet its
commissioner, Larry Scott, says college football is undervalued.

Speaking at the
American Association of Advertising Agencies meeting in Los Angeles today,
Scott says "revenue from television is still a fraction of what it should be."
Ratings of big college football games are comparable to Monday Night Football
NFL telecasts on ESPN, but rights fees are a lot less, he says, blaming a
landscape with 31 division one conferences and a structure in which rights
reside with the NCAA, with conferences and with individual schools for
fragmenting the market.

After joining
the Pac-12, Scott said he got the schools to negotiate rights as a conference.
Those rights went to ESPN and Fox and led to the creation of a Pac-12 Network
that will launch in the fall. The deal reserves some of the conference best
football and basketball games to the Pac-12 Network.

The new rights
arrangement should help the conference restore its basketball luster by putting
180 games on national platforms. "Every basketball game is fully national
because we look at it as a national brand," Scott said. "We're not going to put
our basketball games on any platform only on the West Coast."

Following in the
footsteps of the Big Ten Networks, which struggled to establish rates with
cable operators, the Pac-12 Network was quickly able to make deals with
Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other carriers giving it 40 million subs at

The network will
have seven feeds. One will be national; the others will be localized, with Pac-12
networks in L.A., the Bay Area, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Mountain.

That should
create opportunities for marketers. "With seven different feeds, we'll be able
to maximize audience from an advertiser perspective. It allows us to be very
flexible and efficient in terms of a national platform," Scott said. You can be
a regional advertiser or a local advertiser. If you are company that just has
business in the L.A. area, you can buy on the Pac-12 L.A. network.

The conference
has also rolled up the digital rights to all the member school's websites,
creating a one-stop-shopping opportunity. "This is what pro sports do. We're
applying it for the first time to the college space."

The network will
launch in August after the Olympics and will air seven football games when the
season starts Labor Day weekend.

Scott added that
the conference was able to leverage the 800-pound gorilla of college football
to create visibility for the Olympic type sports. About 700 softball, baseball
water polo and track and field events will be televised on the network. "They
get scant exposure and yet we have some of the greatest athletes at what they
do," Scott said. "This is a game changer."

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.