I too am growing wary of realignment and I just need Arizona and Colorado to make up their gosh-darn minds already. But alas, nobody wants to buy what the Pac is selling and we've now passed the April 15 deadline that Arizona President Robert Robbins (what a creative name by his parents) said he felt "was a good time to have something".
By the way, 7 time Emmy winning, former network executive Jim Williams said this this morning ICYMI:
YouTube TV vs Amazon
Let's settle one thing out the gate, if you subscribe to any of the following, you have not "cut the cord" and do not rely on "streaming only":
- YouTube TV
- Hulu Live
- DirectTV Stream
You have cable. It's just delivered via internet. You have access to live programming and content that is running on a set channel, with commercials, at a time you are not choosing.
When people talking about the Pac-12 getting a streaming deal and Robert Robbins saying they need at least 50% of the games being on linear, they are talking about delivery such as the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV Plus, or the weekly MLB game on Apple or Thursday Night Football on Amazon.
Then again, if they did that, more people would have access to their games than they currently do on the Pac-12 Network (even if nobody watches).
There's Only So Many Slots
For the last decade, aside from the lack of distribution of the P12 Net, the biggest complain from fans of member schools has been that they got bad time slots being stuck on late night giving rise to the Pac-12 After Dark meme or having to play on Friday nights.
No matter what happens, that's still their best case scenario. Push come to shove ESPN went all in on a 16 team SEC after Fox/CBS/NBC went in on the expanded Big Ten, and then a 12 team Big 12 also upped their deal. The net impact of that is:
- Fox already controls two late night brands in USC and UCLA that will be pitted in major brand recognition matchups late at night - these formerly would've been owned by the Pac
- Fox also already has the MW in those same late night slots available for FS1/FS2
- Mid-day, the SEC moved into the Central timezone with OU/Texas taking up more ESPN/ABC real estate
- Big 12 also picks up midday games adding Cincy, Houston and UCF, a net impact of +1 in those time slots
- ESPN retains BYU rights to late night slots which doesn't change much in that window
TL;DR - more midday competition under contract already for the earlier games the Pac wanted and tougher competition in the late slots because no matter which way you slice it USC hosting Ohio State is gonna outdraw anything the Pac puts up.
The issue of limited time slots is why conference networks were created in the first place - to give an overflow for the crowded space where they could still somehow monetize the less valuable games. The Big 12 never got one off the ground and instead opted for a collective ESPN+ deal while OU sold pay per view and Texas had the Longhorn Network.
Streaming is fine for the leftovers, but it cannot house your marquee matchups. And while ESPN is laying off massive numbers - they can either pay top dollar for the Pac only to pit them up against USC and UCLA int he same time slot, or just save their money on and spend it on something else.
The last few years, Fox and ESPN have broadcast ~45 Pac home games, while ~35 were on the conference network. In 2022 it broke down like this:
- Pac-12 Network: 35 games
- ESPN: 13
- Fox: 11
- FS1: 11
- ABC: 4
- ESPN2 : 3
- ESPNU: 1
The league had a requirement that each team must play on the Pac-12 network at least the number of non-conference home games they play. I guess you gotta let Oregon State be on real TV every once in a while.
Take out two teams and assuming 6.5 home games per team, that 80 games is now 67 available to sell.
Last year the network broadcast 3 USC games and 4 UCLA games. That's not going to happen going forward, so you can assume that Fox will take those games, that takes 7 out of the 22 Fox/FS1 took combined, but they're each going to play 7 home games total, so really you're looking at 14/22 of Fox slots accounted for under the Big Ten contract. Not ideal to lose your biggest brands and have nothing to backfill with, that 60/40 is looking more like 40/60 going forward unless a new channel comes into play or they commit to playing more on Thursdays and Fridays than they already do (which they already did more than other P5)
45-13= 31 if you're keeping count.
Per Jim Williams's report above, Apple TV wants the Tier 1 package. Previously, Pac-12 was Tier 3. Rather than streaming being an overflow, a deal with Apple would be putting the best game every week behind the streaming paywall away from all the other CFB games.
And if you're ESPN - why are you going to spend top dollar to get the second pick to fill out a time slot that you are going to put up against a Big Ten or SEC matchup? If you're the Pac why would you accept putting games like Washington vs Oregon on a separate package people have to go out of their way for?
The math ain't mathing and while university presidents have their own agendas and may decide to try to ride it out for five years, here's what I can reasonably deduce:
- If there was a deal on the table comparable to the Big 12's it would be signed already
- The most valuable thing Oregon and Washington have right now in relation to getting into the Big Ten is not being stuck under a Grant of Rights until 2036 like the ACC - they're not going to sign a long deal
- An ACC type deal last 10+ years is probably what would be needed to get money in the ball park of the Big 12 deal. This is a conflict that is impossible to resolve while signing a deal
- There's fewer TV slots available than they got previously and they want their biggest games and the majority of their games on TV. This doesn't jibe with the primary bidder being Apple and multiple TV partners bowing out. Even discussing ION or The CW shows they need more slots.
- Mid tier schools like Arizona (culturally a Big 12 school) and Colorado (formerly a Big 12 school) know that if they don't get on the life boat, it may not come back. They may have delusions of grandeur and think they're going to get a Big Two invite to the SEC or Big Ten, but I think they're smarter than that.
- If you're Oregon and Washington adn the best Pac offer is half the money of the Big Ten and you're going to almost exclusively play on a streaming service, why not go to the Big Ten and beg them to take you to expand their streaming game set that's going on Peacock at a half share?
I just don't see a way this can play out. There might be a 5-10% chance it plays out satisifying all the varying requirements of the 10 different schools both in publicity and financially, but that seems that is trying to thread a microscopic needle and with every passing day it's more and more likely that one of those mid-tier schools makes the jump.
And when two schools do - they're going to chip away at that 30-some odd broadcast slots left and make that 31 closer to 20. And then with 8 schools they'll have no choice but to expand back to at least 10 teams. So good job - you are the Pac-12 again, but now instead of 45 TV slots under contract, there's only about 20 left. You can each play 2 games a year on TV and pretend it's 1995 again.