Is the Pac-12 really that bad? Why the league doesn’t have a TV deal without USC and UCLA

The Pac-12 logo at Rice Eccles Stadium before the Utah-BYU Salt Lake City game.

(George Frey/Getty Images)

Interviews with two well-placed media industry sources who are not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations described some of the Pac-12’s battle for gold as an unfortunate moment. There are far bigger issues at play than the lack of buzz about Pac-12 football when you take Lincoln Riley and the train of five-star quarterbacks he’ll bring to LA out of the equation.

For one thing, the country’s higher economic status means that even the biggest spenders are scrutinizing their margins a little more. In the media realm, that’s also true, with Disney telling ESPN that it needs to be more selective than it has been in the past. The expanded College Football Playoff, for example, will be in play for the next few years. Getting a slice of the marquee events is a must, and saving up for them means paying less for one Pac-12 “After Dark” game a week. As one person said, the Pac-12 is “nice,” not mandatory.

Fox can fill its Saturday slot with Mountain West games on FS1 and not have to spend any extra on the Pac-12.

Kliavkoff has said since taking over as commissioner that the Pac-12 would consider streaming platforms like Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video, but streamers are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year right now and won’t overpay. Pac-12. Even if Prime Video or Apple were to get good funding, either would result in a drastic drop in exposure compared to their Pac-12 counterparts where the best games are on the air.

What good are a couple of million extra a year if your recruits and fans aren’t able to easily access your product?

There are no easy answers for Kliavkoff, which is why his schools have no choice but to keep an open mind about their future conference affiliation.

In the short term, Kliavkoff needs to make sure his latest bid keeps the Pac-12’s top football programs relevant, even if the money isn’t what he or his predecessor Larry Scott promised. That means ESPN or Fox must remain a partner.

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