LOS ANGELES — The Pac-12’s month-long battle for survival could deepen into football season, and perhaps even deeper into the season, as the forces of recombination spread across the college landscape.
Survival, extinction, expansion, participation – it all hinges on the outcome of the media rights talks in the Pac-12 and Big Ten.
Commissioner George Klewkopf offered the reference Friday at the Pac-12’s annual Precision Media event at the Novo Theatre.
“To set expectations,” he said, “the process will accelerate once the Big Ten deals are concluded and may take months to complete.”
There are two reasons for the extended timeline.
– The Pac-12 is three weeks into an exclusive negotiation window with current partners ESPN and Fox that began in early July and is contracted for 30 days.
But both networks are also engulfed in talks with the Big Ten that were extended beyond USC and UCLA’s June 30 and are now expected to end in August.
If willing, the Pac-12 could agree to extend the special 30-day window to ESPN and Fox beyond the contractual endpoint as early as August — a good faith proposition that would see the network focus on the Big Ten will allow the deal to wrap up. Pac-12.
The delay could push the timeline for the Pac-12’s special window into September.
— but even so, the convention will only accept a stellar offer from Fox or ESPN. Otherwise, Kliavkoff will take the inventory to the open market and give other networks the opportunity to bid on the Pac-12 rights.
“We are already seeing significant interest from potential partners, including both existing and new traditional television and most importantly, digital media partners,” he said.
The outcome of the Big Ten talks could affect demand for Pac-12 content among networks that receive less than their desired piece of the former.
For example, if ESPN receives a limited amount of Big Ten football, its interest in the Pac-12 may increase.
(The reverse is also true – and that would be a bad sign for convention.)
If genuine interest in the Pac-12’s media rights extends beyond the two traditional partners, open market negotiations could go on for several months.
In his first public remarks since the USC and UCLA news stories, Kliwkoff spoke with an optimistic tone on Friday.
“With the value of premium college sports rights continuing to rise, with many interested media partners and limited opportunities, especially in the West,” he said, “we are confident in the long-term value of our rights.”
And there’s another layer to consider: the convention is exploring expansion.
If it identifies schools that are competitive and institutionally fit – and if their media evaluation clears the desired range – the conference could have at least two members and perhaps four.
This may well speed up the whole process in the fall.