Opinion: Making Sense Of The Latest Pac-12 Media Rights Rumors

Mar 10, 2023, 8:41 AM | Updated: Mar 15, 2023, 9:28 am

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s been a busy few weeks regarding the Pac-12 media negotiation rumors. Let’s try to make some sense of it together.

I have been trying keep an eye on things being said while gleaning any glimmer of knowledge from sources (a word that has been vastly abused and overused through this process in my opinion) and talk about what I think I know when appropriate.

Now seems to be an appropriate time to divulge a few things I feel like I know to this point from contacts and acquaintances I’ve gathered over the years who are well-connected to Utah and/or the Pac-12 along with some nation-wide connections too.

I want to emphasize I am not promising or guaranteeing anything and what I say is subject to change as new information becomes available. What I am saying though, is, at this moment, based on the information available to me right now, this is where I believe things are heading.

Is The Pac-12 Doomed?

I don’t believe so. At least not this go-around. Talk to me again when media negotiations open up in five to six years and I may have a different opinion, but we’ll have to wait and see what the landscape gives us at that time.

I realize there have been some loud and timely reports from a few spheres that the Pac-12 is in trouble over the course of the last eight months, but based on the information I’ve been able to gather from my sources that are well-placed within Utah and the Pac-12, I have yet to find any solid proof to corroborate those reports.

Here is what I feel like I do know at this point that I can share.

  1. I have multiple sources around Utah and the Pac-12 that have said from the start it is Utah’s desire to remain with the Pac-12. One of those sources with the Pac-12 specifically told me they talked with one of the higher-ups in the conference who is in all of the meetings, and they said Utah has been leading a lot of the charge. ASU was another school mentioned to me as being very invested in those meetings. Add in what John Canzano said last week in this article about having Colorado AD Rick George on record that they aren’t leaving for the Big 12 and the Tweet below from Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan, it doesn’t sound like the so-called “Four Corner” schools are as interested in leaving as some of the reports have mentioned.
  2. When news broke about USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten, I actively started looking into and musing about what every possible scenario could be for Utah specifically, and the Pac-12 generally. I left no stone unturned, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12 – all based on the rumors swirling around at the time. Speaking to everyone possible at this time was essential for checking the realignment pulse. I got feedback from a well-placed Utah official regarding the Big 12 rumors with a warning to watch out for bad sourcing. Fast forward to this past week, I was speaking with a Pac-12 source and the same warning was issued.

With that said, it’s not that I don’t think the Big 12 hasn’t had some conversations with Utah, ASU, Arizona, and Colorado, I just can’t find current proof from anyone well-placed that these conversations are as serious as some are reporting them to be.

Why Are These Negotiations Taking So Long? Is The Money That Bad?

There has been a lot of talk that because the negotiations surrounding the Pac-12’s media rights have taken what some consider a long time that it must mean money is a problem.

Through conversations with people connected to Utah, the Pac-12 and people used to going through big negotiations, I’m not finding any proof the Pac-12 is struggling to find a good deal.

In fact, it’s sounding like the Pac-12 has found some mixture between ESPN, Amazon, and Apple that they like and are just busy hammering out the details.

I have not been given any exact numbers, just a general range. However, time and time again from my Utah and Pac-12 sources I’ve been told the money will likely be within the vicinity of the Big 12 – give or take some change, but not enough difference to make anyone want to bolt. This information lines up with what other Pac-12 reporters who are in Las Vegas speaking to people in the negotiation room are saying along with this Tweet from the Former Fox Sports Networks President Bob Thompson who has also been adamant the money should be in line.

So where is the hold up? I’ve been told the Pac-12 is currently negotiating with both Amazon and Apple TV on the streaming end and because it’s new territory the process takes longer and involves more lawyers than simply negotiating with one of the classic TV powers. There is a general precedent in contracts with classic TV powers such as ESPN, Fox Sports, etc. and the various athletic conferences, there isn’t one with streaming services and that makes drawing up a contract more complex and therefore more time-consuming.

Could Something Drastically Change With Conference Realignment And Media Rights?

Of course. Until all is said and done there is always room for something to change. What I just shared could easily change next week. I chose to report what did in this article because they have remained constant in my conversations over the past several months which leads me to believe that is where everything is ultimately heading.

Things To Keep An Eye On In The Meantime

This has been a stressful process for all those involved. There is zero doubt about that. Humans are creatures that want immediate answers. When immediate answers aren’t available, we start to panic and latch onto anything that could possibly be an answer whether it actually is or not.

My best advice when it comes to wading through the bombardment of information being thrown around about Pac-12 media rights is to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Who would actually be involved in these discussions?
  2. Are the sources being cited reasonably specific to who would be involved?
  3. Has the messaging/attitude changed from those who would be involved?

Basically, watch closely those who would be involved in the negotiation room and take your cues from them. If they don’t appear to be panicking, you probably shouldn’t either.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

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Opinion: Making Sense Of The Latest Pac-12 Media Rights Rumors