Report: ESPN not interested taking top Pac-12 football games in new media deal

May 4, 2023, 12:29 PM | Updated: 12:30 pm

ESPN Pac-12...

A sign marking the entrance to ESPN's Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World is seen Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. The NBA has told the National Basketball Players Association that it will present a 22-team plan for restarting the season at Disney. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Reports indicate the Pac-12 remains far from landing a new media rights deal as conference meetings conclude on Thursday.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reports that ESPN has indicated it will not be the primary partner for a TV and streaming deal. It told Big 12 officials this week that that conference, plus the SEC and ACC, will be the only three featured conferences when it comes to carrying college football games.

ESPN could still be a secondary rights holder with openings for late-night games, according to the report.

According to sources who have speculated on what form a Pac-12 deal could find, the league’s Tier I content would likely be categorized as a minimum of two games a week for a rightsholder across a typical 14-week season. Those 28 games may be valued at approximately $200 million, an average of $7 million per game.

It has been assumed that an approximate $300 million rights deal might be needed to keep some Pac-12 schools from jumping to the Big 12. If a Tier I deal is closed at that valuation, the league would need to seek at least $100 million for the estimated 47-50 remaining games in the Pac-12 inventory (based on the league remaining at 10 teams.)

The Pac-12’s current media contract that puts its best football games on Fox and ESPN ends in July 2024.

Leaders in the Pac-12 are meeting this week in Scottsdale. The media deal negotiations and expansion are the two urgent topics, but The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner reported Tuesday that the former remains weeks, if not months, from concluding.

The Big 12’s recent media deal will average $31.7 million in annual revenue, and it’s assumed the Pac-12 wants close to that. It’s expected to receive less after losing USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, according to Dodd.

The Big 12 has been in contact with Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado and Utah regarding the possibility they depart their current conference, reports The Athletic. While ASU and Arizona’s leaders have remained consistent that the 10 remaining Pac-12 teams are sticking together, they admitted disappointments about the process in March and April as the process has drawn on since last summer.

Sources would not indicate an exact figure that would keep Pac-12 schools from considering a Big 12 move. Arizona president Robert Robbins has similarly declined to provide a number. However, informed speculation suggests the Pac-12 landing within 10% of the Big 12 figure — approximately $28.5 million — may be enough to keep the league together.

The pending departures of USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 initially raised concerns that teams like Washington and Oregon could also leave for the Big Ten. But the 10 remaining Pac-12 schools have, at least publicly, remained steadfast in standing together as commissioner George Kliavkoff has worked to secure a new media rights contract.

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