Recall back in October 2010 when Pac-12 expansion was announced. On that day, which was greeted with equal-parts excitement and trepidation, it was revealed that the conference would be on the hook for a $2 million payout to USC and UCLA if in any year TV revenue turned out to be less than $170 million. That conditional payoff was necessary to get the L.A. schools to sign off on equal revenue sharing, thereby ending the Pac-10's former appearance-based model.
Some wondered: How could the conference get a network to pay in this down economy?
One word: Ha!
The Pac-12 has agreed to a 12-year television contract with ESPN and Fox that reportedly will more than quadruple its media rights fees and be the most valuable for any conference in college sports.
The contract, which will begin with the 2012-13 season, was initially reported at more than $225 million per year -- or $2.7 billion over the life of the deal, according to the Sports Business Daily and The Associated Press. The New York Times later Tuesday reported the deal at $3 billion over 12 years, more than quadrupling what the two companies have been paying.
The Pac-10's old TV contracts paid about $45 million annually from ABC/ESPN and Fox. So that roughly $4.5 million per team -- recall, again, that there wasn't equal revenue sharing -- will become roughly $20.83 million per team starting in 2012 (Utah gets 50 percent in 2012, 75 percent in 2013 and a full share in 2014).
Image: Twelve athletic directors leaping into the air and clicking their heels together, particularly at small-stadium schools such as Oregon State and Washington State.
A formal announcement of the contract is expected shortly, perhaps even while commissioner Larry Scott and other conference officials are toasting their deal-making at the Pac-12 meetings in Phoenix this week.
The deal includes football, basketball and Olympic sports rights, but the Pac-12 is free and clear to establish its own network and digital channel, which means more potential revenue streams.
Some details from Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News:
Games will be shown on Fox, ABC, FX, Fox Sports Net, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.
The Pac-12 football championship game is part of the contract and will be shown alternately on Fox and ABC.
The conference will be the sole owner of its own network, unlike the Big Ten. Fox owns 49 percent of the Big Ten Network.
Scott told the New York Times the conference was the beneficiary of the Big Ten creating its network first.
“They did a lot of things wonderfully and successfully,” Scott told the Times. “They were pioneers. But when you’re the second to do it, you get to draft behind the first one.”
Conclusion: A big win for Scott and a big win for the conference, with perhaps even more revenue to come.