Fox Said To Be Leader In Race To Acquire Pac-12 Media Rights
Fox is the "favorite to land the Pac-12 media rights contract -- perhaps the overwhelming favorite," according to Jon Wilner of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Fox, which is in the "middle of an exclusive negotiating window" with the conference, last month announced a $25M deal for the rights to the '11 Pac-12 football title game. Sources indicated that "that was the Fox way of saying: 'We want your business over the long haul.'" A source added, "Fox is the leader in the clubhouse." Wilner noted if Fox does not win the rights, then it will be "probably Comcast/NBC" that strikes a deal with the Pac-12. The conference is "looking for a deal in the $140-150 million range," and sources said that there is "no indication that ESPN will be willing to pay what the Pac-12 wants or provide the exposure opportunities the Pac-12 is seeking." A source said, "ESPN has no place to put them." Fox, meanwhile, is "clearly ramping up its coverage -- to the point, one source said, that it may consider broadcasting Pac-12 football games on the Fox over-the-air network (not FSN) to compete against ESPN/ABC in the 8 p.m. Eastern window." Wilner added, "I also believe commissioner Larry Scott wants to make the Pac-12 Network happen, and that the only reason it won’t happen is if Fox essentially pays the league to not form a network." If the Pac-12 "signs with Fox and also creates the Pac-12 Network, Fox would almost assuredly be the partner." But "getting the Pac-12 Network up and running will be expensive and complicated," and "one hurdle may stand above all others: Time Warner Cable." It is the "dominant distributor in Los Angeles, and it’s notoriously stingy when it comes to sports networks" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 2/16).