Pac-12 in Talks With The CW on New National TV Rights Deal

USC vs. Oregon State on the Pac-12 Network
(Image credit: Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)

The Pac-12 is in talks with The CW to take over the collegiate athletic conference's national TV rights when its current deal with ESPN and Fox expires next year, The Athletic reported

Nexstar Media Group, which acquired 75% of The CW last August, continues to pursue live sports following its purchase of LIV Golf TV rights earlier this year. 

The Pac-12, meanwhile, continues to battle through major instability, with top revenue earners USC and UCLA set to bolt to the Big Ten in 2024 and the conference unable to lock in a new national TV deal. 

Aggregating myriad previous reports, The Athletic describes disarray and confusion among top administrators of Pac-12 member schools, who expected league commissioner George Kliavkoff to have hammered out a new TV deal by now ... with someone

In February, the New York Post reported on speculation that national Pac-12 TV rights might end up at Apple, but nothing seems to have transpired with that. 

Third and Long

Certainly, Kliavkoff -- who inherited this media rights disaster from Larry Scott -- has his work cut out for him.

First and foremost is the very core stability of the league, with member schools Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado said to have had recent discussions about bolting to the Big 12, and Oregon and Washington rumored to be possibly joining USC and UCLA in the Big Ten. 

The cause of this instability has been the Pac-12's relatively awful TV revenue situation. In August, for example, the Big Ten announced a seven-year deal to put football and basketball games on CBS, Fox and NBC, netting the league $1 billion per season. This has been viewed as a major reason why USC and UCLA broke century-old ties to the Pac-12 and agreed to regularly put their student athletes on cross-country plane rides to play games in the Big Ten. 

The Pac-12's current 12-year national deal with ESPN and Fox, which runs out in the summer of 2024, pays it just $250 million annually. 

Any hopes of improving upon that rate in renewal were dashed in October, when Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark got the drop on Kliavkoff, negotiating a six-year, $2.28 billion deal with ESPN and Fox. That $360 million-a-year paycheck represented a 73% revenue bump over the Big 12's previous national TV deal, while sating ESPN and Fox to the point at which they're not so eager to pay a premium to re-up the Pac-12.

Putting further pressure on Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 is the fact that the league's linear regional sports network isn't rollin' in the scrilla and flashin' the mad bling-bling, either. 

Launched a decade ago, the Pac-12 network has faced distribution issues from the start -- it's never been able to lock in carriage on DirecTV, for example. And revenue-wise, it only generates a fraction of what RSNs tied to other "Power 5" athletic conferences do.  

Last year, for instance, Pac-12 Networks, which showed 36 conference football games live, about 44% of the league's total games, generated just $30 million for its league members, only around $2.5 million per school. 

So, all told, the Pac-12 is generating less than $300 million a year on media rights. Compare that to the SEC, which made $833 million in 2021. 

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!