Outlining benefits of new Pac-12 media rights deal

2011-05-03T16:15:00Z 2011-05-03T16:20:22Z Outlining benefits of new Pac-12 media rights dealBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star

The more details I learn about the Pac-12's new media rights deal today, the more it is even clearer how Arizona and its fans will benefit immensely.

Here's why:

-- Arizona will average an extra $13 million or so annually from the contract with ESPN and Fox. Currently, the Pac-10 has a deal that is expected to pay about $60 million, or $6 million per school, in 2011-12. The new deal is worth about $19 million per school.

And those figures don't even count revenue from a Pac-12 Network, which could ultimately -- after two or three years of start-up losses -- profit each school more than $10 million annually.

The Big Ten Network is worth more than $11 million to each of its schools and has a stronger cultural foothold in the Midwest that allows it to command more than the Pac-12 probably will be able to. But the Pac-12 is not expected to partner with Fox, which will cost more upfront but ultimately allow it to keep all of the profit. So even if the Big Ten nets $25 million between Fox and itself, a profit of $13 million in the Pac-10 means more goes back to the schools.

The money, of course, will allow UA to stay competitive in facilities and coaching, while also making more money available for charter flights, which are typically now taken only by the football team. No doubt that's a good thing for Sean Miller, who had the luxury of charters at Xavier only to find himself at UA changing planes and riding buses to reach places like Corvallis.

Greg Byrne, of course, is also breathing a sigh of relief.

While unable to give specifics until the deal is announced Wednesday, Byrne said:

"Basically there’s certainly a lot of chatter out there for good and progressive news for our conference and it’s coming at a time when there’s tremendous financial pressures on our athletic department and our league," Byrne said. "This will give us an opportunity to support our 19 sports and almost 500 student-athletes, and the cost associated with that."

-- The Pac-12 is expected to put much of its content online, benefiting fans all over the world while also exposing its content to audiences outside the West and outside the U.S.

-- Neither basketball nor football games will be regionally telecast. Fox, Fx, ABC and the ESPN networks will air football, and basketball games will go on the ESPN networks and FSN. And FSN will likely be carried fully for games; there will not be regional broadcasts and it is very likely that all FSN affiliates will be required to carry Pac-12 games.

Under the current deal, FSN affiliates' regional contracts took precedent over national Pac-10 games, which is why you'd often seen an NHL game in certain markets when a Pac-10 game was being shown across most of the FSN networks.

-- More of the games are likely to be shown on ESPN networks, which will please fans and coaches alike. Under the current deal, ESPN merely sublicenses a few games from Fox to show; but now ESPN will be a co-rightsholder with Fox. And any games on ABC probably won't be shown to a split national audience.

-- It is likely that football and basketball games will be divvied up in a system where ESPN picks a round of games first, then Fox gets its choice, and then ESPN gets more, then the rest go to the Pac-12 Network. But those are details, I'm hoping, that will be revealed Wednesday.

There are a few drawbacks for fans, however:

- Cable and satellite rates may go up a dollar or so (not that they don't anyway), especially in Pac-12 country, as providers pass on the cost of a Pac-12 Network to viewers.

-- Also, the Pac-12 Network could face initial distribution challenges, which would mean it might not be available on all cable and satellite providers right away -- especially outside the West.

-- Games will be played on different nights to spread out the content and ensure national distribution. The most change is likely in basketball, where there are more games. So the old Thursday-Saturday format, at least as a regular thing, will be gone after next season.

Starting in 2012-12 (the first year of the new deal), you may need to clear your Tuesday night schedule to see UA face Washington State in Pullman someday. But at least the game will be on ESPN or another national broadcast...

I'll have more details on the new deal after Wednesday's press conference in Phoenix.

 

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