Media rights have become a big part of college athletics. More important to the schools is a sense of stability. Early last week Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented a media rights deal to be signed with Apple TV. This was the only option that was mentioned, leaving some schools questioning their respective position at the table. The financials were just not there.
The offer included a $20 million base with an increase based on the subscriber tier. I get that streaming is the wave of the future. I don’t know of anyone who does not have at least one streaming service, but for college football to survive, there needs to be a linear element.
We do not know if there was a Plan B or Plan C because before it was presented on Friday morning to put an Apple contract into effect, both Oregon and Washington decided to depart the conference for the Big Ten. Soon after, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah followed. With the earlier departure of Colorado, the Pac-12, a solid Power 5 Conference was relegated to the Pac 4.
Stanford, Cal, Washington State, and Oregon State are what remains of 108 years of tradition in the Conference of Champions. The changes for the departing schools don’t take effect until Summer 2024, so we have one more season where the band is all together.
According to ESPN, financial stability was a key factor in the decision to move for Washington. Huskies President Ana Mari Cauce said it was not as much about dollars and cents, “When you have a deal that people are saying that one of the best aspects are that you can get out of it in two years, that tells you a lot.”
University of Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens summed up the move similarly, “”We’ve been working over the last 13, 14 months about getting a great understanding about ourselves – our TV ratings, our social media reach, our demographics – to make sure that we understood ourselves and were prepared for the changing landscape in college athletics.”
The Big Ten Media Rights deal runs through the 2029-30 season and has contracts with all of the most of the key linear television players including CBS, FOX, and NBC for both football and basketball.
Despite the move, Mullens said that he will work to maintain the relationship with Oregon State to ensure they continue to play their in-state rival across all sports. The move for Oregon, Washington, USC, and UCLA will take place just ahead of the Fall 2024 season.