Pac-12 media rights negotiations have entered a crucial new phase that will shape the future of the conference.
The exclusive negotiation window with ESPN and Fox concluded without extending current agreements, according to an industry source.
The development allows the Pac-12 to put its entire men’s football and basketball inventory on the open market to solicit offers from other media companies and potentially drive up the price, a process that could take several month.
Sources say open market negotiations are expected to include at least one major digital player (Amazon or Apple) as well as current Pac-12 partners ESPN and Fox, and possibly others.
With all rights now available to any interested media company, the Pac-12 can create inventory and craft deal packages with a variety of partners, increasing the total value of their rights package.
“The Pac-12 will be fine,” said a second industry source. “Are they going to make all the money they want? I do not know. But if they don’t, they won’t be far.
On Friday, the Sports Business Journal was the first to report the end of the exclusive window.
When this window started remains a mystery.
On July 5, less than a week after USC and UCLA accepted invitations to join the Big Ten, the Pac-12 presidents authorized commissioner Georgia Kliavkoff to begin negotiating a new media deal for the contract cycle starting in summer 2024.
As existing rights holders, ESPN and Fox were entitled to an exclusive trading period. But no details were given, either for the start of the exclusive window or for its duration.
Many assumed that a 30-day period began shortly after the presidents gave their consent. And in that case, it would have expired in August.
However, if the start was delayed until late August — after the Big Ten reached its media rights deal — or if the window was longer than 30 days, then this later-than-expected shutdown would make sense.
The lack of a deal suggests ESPN and Fox didn’t make the Pac-12 an offer they couldn’t refuse.
At the same time, the development could be favorable to the conference if a third party (or a fourth party) has a serious interest in forging an agreement.
These details are not known to the public. However, the Pac-12 likely understands the level of market interest in its inventory due to the unique nature of media contracts.
The exclusive trading window relates to the rights held by a specific network. In other words, ESPN and Fox could only bid for what they currently own (about 22 games each).
However, the 36 games on the Pac-12 networks, which are 100% owned by the conference, were not protected by any agreements with ESPN and Fox.
Kliavkoff and his advisors were free to conduct formal negotiations (i.e. dollars and cents) for this set of games with any interested media entity. This process could have informed a broader strategy to be pursued by the conference.
With the 44 regular season games held by ESPN and Fox now available on the open market — in addition to the conference championship — Kliavkoff can create packages to sell to any interested bidders.
This includes negotiations on kick-off times and the weekly pick order.
The process could move quickly and be completed by November.
More likely, it will extend into the winter, particularly if the conference determines expansion is the best course of action.
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