With revenue outlook stabilized, Pac-12 Networks aims to provide more exposure to teams
The Pac-12 is not expecting its media revenue to change much over the next six years. The conference is smack in the middle of 12-year rights deals with ESPN and Fox Sports, and its Pac-12 Networks is in the middle of its distribution deals with most cable and satellite operators.
Those deals run through the 2023-24 season.
“It’s a stable business model,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “There’s not going to be a lot of fluctuation one way or another given that we’ve got declining subscribers in the ecosystem offset by the increased rates that we’ve baked in annually in our deals.”
When Pac-12 Networks launched in 2012, the surplus that would be returned to conference schools was only one part of the strategy. Now that the revenue outlook is stabilized — the nets pay each school close to $3 million each year — conference officials are intent on figuring out how to provide more exposure to Pac-12 teams.
“I know that the value of these TV networks is most often measured in dollars and cents, and that is a critical piece,” Scott said. “A main purpose of our TV networks was our mission, which was to create a platform to create value and a competitive advantage for all these Olympic sports that we’re so proud of. I feel like we’re only scratching the surface in terms of taking advantage of owning and controlling your own TV network.”
As an example, Scott referenced programming changes planned for the upcoming football season that are designed to bring a bigger profile to conference schools, even if they don’t significantly add revenue to the networks. The channel will launch a Pac-12 Networks-produced “College GameDay”-style show at each campus. The network also plans to send reporters and crews to campus on Wednesdays, two days earlier than they used to arrive.
“These are not decisions you make for financial reasons; there’s no ROI on that,” he said. “You make that decision because you see a lot of value in the positioning, exposure and what that will do for you from a marketing perspective and a recruiting perspective.
“Our fans have told us that they want us to go deeper in terms of our football coverage. We want to capture what’s unique and special about a campus environment leading up to a college football game and show how that is differentiated from an NFL football game.”
Those programming enhancements are nice, but ask any of the conference’s athletic directors, and they would all say that they’d rather have more revenue coming from the networks. The Pac-12 Networks’ per-school revenue is less than a third of what schools in the Big Ten and SEC are making, and it’s hard to see how the Pac-12 will make up that ground, at least until 2024.