The Pac-10 Conference has agreed to a massive media rights deal with ESPN and Fox that is worth $3B over 12 years, according to multiple sources. A formal announcement will come tomorrow. The deal, which averages out to $250M per year, includes football, basketball and Olympic sports rights and quadruples the conference's current deals with ESPN and Fox. The conference is holding some rights back that it plans to use for a dedicated channel. The deal is a blow to Comcast/NBC, which was vying to pick up the rights for Versus. Comcast/NBC still is in play to operate a conference channel, but sources said it has told the conference that it is unwilling to actually own such a channel. As part of its deal, ESPN is picking up football and basketball rights, plus rights to a package of Olympic sports. ESPN has committed to carrying an unknown number of football games in primetime on ABC. Fox picked up football and basketball rights. It will carry football games on its Fox broadcast channel in primetime and on FX. It will carry basketball games on FSN. ESPN and Fox will rotate coverage of the Pac-10's basketball tournament and football championship game. The conference becomes the Pac-12 on July 1 when Colorado and Utah enter the conference (Ourand & Smith, SportsBusiness Journal). In San Jose, Jon Wilner reports by splitting the rights between ESPN and Fox, the conference "has more outlets for getting its football and basketball games on TV" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 5/3).
CONFERENCE NETWORK COMING AS WELL: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports the Pac-10 “will start its own network on cable television in 2012,” but the big difference between it and the Big Ten Network is that the Pac-10 “will retain full ownership of its network.” Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said, “We didn’t feel we had to give equity to get the broadcast and cable packages we got.” Sandomir reports the network “will carry at least 350 sports events.” The Pac-10 also is “creating a digital channel, like ESPN3, to carry at least 500 events annually, and a properties division to handle sponsorships.” Meanwhile, Scott said that “the timing” of the Pac-10’s deals with ESPN and Fox helped the conference. Sandomir notes the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and ACC “have all wrapped up contracts in recent years.” That left the Pac-10 looking at ESPN; Fox, “which has elevated its ardor for college sports after losing its BCS bowl rights to ESPN; and Comcast, which was looking to raise the profile of its Versus channel” (NYTIMES.com, 5/3).