The Fall of Pac-12: Failing to Adapt to the Evolving Media Landscape

by Chloe Baker
Pac-12 Conference

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Five years ago, Larry Scott was confident that the Pac-12 Conference would excel in navigating the emerging media landscape, taking opportunities that others wouldn’t be able to grasp.

However, that assurance turned out to be a reflection of what the competitors and their commissioners achieved, not Pac-12 itself.

Scott never got the opportunity to negotiate another media deal for Pac-12, and he resigned as commissioner in 2021. His replacement, George Kliavkoff, also failed to secure the necessary deal.

The recent disintegration of Pac-12, marked by five of the remaining nine members leaving for the Big Ten or Big 12, vividly illustrates two realities: the importance of football in college sports, and the limitations on what media markets will pay for content.

Tag Garson of Wasserman, a media company, pointed out that this collapse was related to timing, desired fees, and the evolving world of intercollegiate athletics. It was about ensuring long-term success for schools.

With media rights significantly overtaking ticket sales and donations as the main revenue source, the conference’s income showed a huge jump in 2022 to $399.89 million, which was more than the combined revenue from ticket sales and donor contributions.

Despite speculations, a new Pac-12 rights deal was not reached by the basketball tournament, leading to increased concerns about the future of the conference.

During football media day, Kliavkoff remained vague about media rights negotiations, focusing on football instead. Eventually, a proposed deal with Apple emerged, but the secretive details and probable increased production costs raised eyebrows.

The deal’s out clause after two years was also seen as problematic by Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, who felt that a two-year exit option wasn’t promising.

Kliavkoff inherited an unsustainable situation, including a network that could not secure a deal with DirecTV, and the rejection of ESPN’s partnership offer in 2019 furthered the struggles.

The departure of Southern California and UCLA made matters worse, leaving the Pac-12 hoping for a deal that would keep them on par with others but still trailing behind other Power Five programs.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormak was contrastingly aggressive, extending deals with ESPN and Fox.

Performance on major stages was also a drawback for Pac-12, with a lack of success in football and men’s basketball, the two most revenue-generating sports. Long droughts in titles, with the last league team playing in a final in 2006, and the late Saturday night window for football not being enough, indicated that networks like ESPN and Fox were unwilling to meet Pac-12’s demands.

Garson emphasized that expectations that networks will continue to financially solve all problems of intercollegiate athletics are unrealistic, stating that there’s a limited amount of money available.

The tale of Pac-12 is thus a cautionary one, reflecting the challenges of adapting to a changing media landscape, competitive pressures, and the financial realities of college sports.

[For more information on college football, visit: https://bigbignews.net/college-football]

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pac-12 Conference

What led to the downfall of the Pac-12 Conference?

The downfall of the Pac-12 Conference was primarily caused by its inability to adapt to the changing media landscape, failure in negotiating a second media deal, loss of key members, and struggles in maintaining competitiveness in major sports like football and basketball.

Who was responsible for trying to negotiate the media deal for Pac-12?

Larry Scott was initially responsible for the negotiations but stepped down in 2021. His successor, George Kliavkoff, also tried but did not secure the deal the conference needed.

What was the reaction to the proposed deal with Apple for the Pac-12 Conference?

The proposed deal with Apple was met with skepticism. The framework was seen as similar to Apple’s deal with Major League Soccer, and concerns were raised over probable increased production costs and the deal’s out clause after two years.

How have other conferences performed in contrast to Pac-12?

Other conferences, such as the Big 12, have been more aggressive and successful in negotiating media deals and extensions, which has set them apart from Pac-12’s struggles.

How did the lack of success in football and basketball contribute to the Pac-12’s problems?

The Pac-12’s failure to achieve significant success in football and men’s basketball, the two sports that bring in the most revenue, has been a hindrance. This includes a lack of qualification for the College Football Playoff, poor performance in bowl games, and a long title drought in men’s basketball.

What were the main sources of revenue for the Pac-12 Conference?

In 2022, the main sources of revenue for the Pac-12 Conference were media rights (35%, $399.89 million), donor contributions (26%, $168.55 million), and ticket sales (20%, $134.63 million). Media rights significantly overtook other sources.

What does the Pac-12’s situation indicate about the intercollegiate athletics media market?

The Pac-12’s situation is a cautionary tale about the challenges of adapting to a changing media landscape and the limitations on what media markets will pay for content. It emphasizes the importance of successful negotiation, adaptability, and recognizing the finite resources available in intercollegiate athletics.

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Linda Michaels August 8, 2023 - 5:41 am

the Apple deal sounded weird from the start, who puts an out clause after two years? Tells you a lot indeed!

Terry Williams August 8, 2023 - 6:41 am

It’s not all about money, they should’ve seen that networks have limits. ESPN and Fox made it clear they have a budget. You can’t expect unlimited funds, can you?

Kevin O'Neil August 8, 2023 - 2:59 pm

Kliavkoff inheriting Scott’s mess, that’s tough to deal with. Not sure if anyone could have salvaged the situation though

Jim Carter August 8, 2023 - 5:10 pm

Wow, the downfall of Pac-12 is a big shock! never saw it coming. A lesson to all conferences out there, i guess.

Sara Thompson August 8, 2023 - 11:32 pm

This just proves how importnt football is to college athletics, right? Maybe they should’ve focused more on their key sports. Just a thought.


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