Big 12 and BYU beat Pac-12 to the media rights punch, sending Utah, others into uncertainty
By Jay Fletch
If the Pac-12 has a big red “panic” button, now may be the best time to press it.
The once-proud conference is drowning in its efforts to find an updated media rights deal, with BYU and its new Big 12 associates comfortably afloat amid the broadcast landscape.
Not only is the Big 12 secure and stable, but its privileged position is what sent the Pac-12 into peril.
Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark orchestrated the league’s new $2.28 billion media deal with ESPN and Fox back in October, with the agreement’s steep price tag dissuading other networks from doing business with the Pac-12.
“There was one big deal to be had and the Big 12 got in there and got it,” John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal said on his podcast this week. “Things are not looking great right now for the Pac-12 from a linear TV perspective.”
Both CBS and Turner are reportedly out of the Pac-12 picture, with Ourand and colleague Andrew Marchand claiming Fox would only partner with the league “for pennies on the dollar.”Amazon and Apple are both possible options should the Pac-12 want to enter the streaming world (whether by choice or by forced survival), but an Amazon deal wouldn’t reach the league’s desired sum and Apple would be an awkward fit, Ourand noted.
With the Pac-12’s future in jeopardy — its current media deal ends following the 2023 campaign — the conference has flirted with possible expansion to sweeten its media appeal. San Diego State and SMU are the most likely candidates for the league to pursue, although neither brand holds adequate value to compete with the Big 10 or Big 12’s hefty payday.
Brett Yormark, take a bow.
The Pac-12’s bleak media outlook could entice current conference tenants to jump ship for greener pastures, as UCLA and USC have already planned their escape to the Big 10. A Pac-12 implosion would allow other leagues to play vulture and salvage the remaining schools of value, with Oregon, Washington and Stanford likely to have their fair share of suitors.
The Big 12 would almost surely take advantage of potential Pac-12 refugees, with Arizona and Arizona State being the most obvious selections. While Utah has enjoyed its fair share of success within the Pac-12 recently, its brand still falls in the bottom half of the league, with several sources indicating a lack of interest for Utah from a national media perspective. Therefore, while a BYU reunion with Utah in the Big 12 isn’t impossible, it would offer little benefit to the conference.
BYU’s jump to the Big 12 could not have come at a better time, and with the direction media dollars are taking, it could make the initial gamble into independence and subsequent Power 5 parlay one of the smartest moves in school history. As the Pac-12 — and Utah in particular — scramble to stay alive, Big 12-bound BYU reaps the benefits of one of the sweetest media deals in sports.