Why the Pac 10 structurally cannot negotiate a significant and competitive media rights deal, and what it means to the future of college football.
It is a pure number's game when it comes to the Pac 10 conference's TV problem.
The Pac 10 (yes, I know they call themselves the Pac 12 today) has had repeated issues in trying to negotiate a new TV contract for the conference. There have been delays and rumors of teams ready to leave.
What is the core issue? With USC and UCLA gone and only ten schools left there is not enough "brand" games to drive market value. Let me illustrate. I have assigned a brand grade to the remaining schools of the Pac 10 and Big 12 after realignment.
Perhaps, you will disagree with any of the individual grades. I think I have been fair to the schools in both conferences.
You may look at these grades and think well this validates how much stronger the Pac 10 will be than the Big 12. You might focus on the fact that the two highest grades are in the Pac 10.
What if we graded every matchup in both conferences? This would be an estimate of how attractive each game would be to a NATIONAL TV network.
The average ranking of matchups in each conference is extremely close. Here is the key differentiator.
Number of A/B Matchups
Pac 10- 9
Big 12- 16
Number of C Matchups
Pac 10- 18
Big 12- 25
There are simply not enough "good games" (inventory) in a non-USC/UCLA Pac 10. The conference cannot even deliver one good game for every week of the 13-week season. What is a tier 1 media rights holder supposed to do for the 4-5 weeks the Pac 10 does not even have a "B" level game? Oregon-Oregon St. and Washington- Washington St. are two "B" games that have traditionally been on the same week 13. A tier one package is really about 2/3rd of the season for premium games.
The Big 12 will have 16 of those games. They can fill an entire schedule. The fact that there are at least four TV draws in the Big 12 and only three in the Pac 10 is a reason the Pac 10 cannot get a high value media rights deal.
Expansion is not likely to really help this as SDSU and SMU would rank as C level teams at best.
The Big 12 has an advantage in the number of "C" graded games as well. Imagine the games a tier 2 and a tier 3 package would include. How much would you pay for the rights to broadcast Arizona St. play Stanford? I assure you - not much.
Here is the Big 12's secret- BYU. BYU is and will be the last big value-added western university that was not currently in the Power 5. The Pac 10 had no interest in BYU, and the Big 12 moved quickly to add them and others.
Even if you can claim my grading is wrong, I think the TV networks are far more likely to view these as generous grades than not. Put your own framework together and see how it plays out.
Keep this in mind as you hear more and more rumblings from Colorado and the Arizona Schools. My honest opinion is that I do not see a world that the PAC 10 survives to remain as viewed on the same level as the Big 12 and ACC. To me, it is far more likely after say Colorado bolts for the Big 12 that Arizona follows. At that point, I believe the Big 10 will snatch up Washington and Oregon at a reduced share because those two schools will be desperate to survive in a big football world. With four universities gone, the future of the Pac 6 plus whomever they add would likely relegate them to Mountain West plus status.
You may look at my grades and ask why would the Big 12 even want Colorado and Arizona and Arizona State. I think there are a few answers.
Overall, these three would add schools on par with the middle of the Big 12 with an opportunity to improve their brands with greater visibility due to road games in the central and even eastern time zones.
Colorado would be able to renew rivalries with some of their regional schools to the east.
The exit of the three MIGHT induce Utah, with little other Power 5 option, to join the Big 12 as well.
Arizona has been a traditional basketball power. Adding them further enhances the ability for the Big 12 to negotiate a better basketball media deal in the future.
Building a 16-team national conference has an opportunity to market itself nationally.
This is one view of the media negotiations that I believe deserves more attention. I honestly think the Pac 10 schools have no real good option. We will soon see how it all plays out.
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