Pac-10 announces ESPN/Fox TV deal

Updated: May 4, 2011, 8:04 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Pac-10 -- soon to officially become the Pac-12 -- has agreed to a 12-year television contract with ESPN and Fox that will more than triple 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, will be worth more than $225 million per year -- or $2.7 billion over the life of the deal, Sports Business Daily and The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

The contract was formally announced at a news conference Wednesday in Phoenix.

"Significantly enhancing premier content from a conference with the tradition, passion and excellence of the Pac-12 strengthens our networks' position as the home for college sports," ESPN executive vice president John Skipper said. "As we grow our longstanding relationship with the conference, fans will be able to watch ESPN's Pac-12 coverage on any screen they choose."

Conference commissioner Larry Scott added, "We are excited to become a more integral part of the ESPN family. Long an innovator in sports programming, ESPN has truly earned a reputation as a leader in college sports. We look forward to adding to that legacy for the benefit of Pac-12 fans everywhere, and in providing dramatically enhanced national exposure for our institutions and their outstanding programs."

The Pac-10 made less than $60 million in media rights this past season but became the latest conference to take advantage of the escalating market for college sports on television.

"Commissioner Scott has done an exceptional job in seeing the negotiations through and providing significantly greater exposure for the athletic teams at all of our Pac-12 universities, as well as greatly enhancing the revenue from the media to support those programs," Washington interim president Phyllis Wise said in a statement. "It's a good day for the conference and the great universities that comprise it."

The ACC recently signed a deal for $155 million a year, and the Big 12 reached a deal with Fox that made its total annual package worth about $130 million.

The Pac-10, which will be renamed the Pac-12 in July with the additions of Utah and Colorado, topped those deals, as well as the $205 million the SEC gets and the $220 million paid to the Big Ten.

Under this deal, Fox and ESPN will split the rights to college football games. ESPN will air its games on cable as well as ABC; Fox will show its games on its broadcast network, basic cable network FX and on the Fox Sports Net regional networks.

ESPN will air four prime-time games on both Thursday and Friday nights, as well as a 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT Saturday window for football. There will also be at least five Saturday night prime-time games on ABC or Fox.

"It is a historic deal for the conference and our university," Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. "It gives us a much-needed revenue stream and at the same time improves our ability to compete on a national level for many years to come."

Men's basketball games will be split mostly between ESPN and Fox Sports Net, with ESPN showing games on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, as the conference becomes more flexible with scheduling. ESPN will also have the rights to the Pac-10 women's basketball championship.

The two entities will alternate showing the Pac-10 football championship game and the men's basketball tournament. Fox, which will air the inaugural football title game this season, will have the first football championship under this contract in 2012, with ESPN getting the men's basketball tournament later that season.

ESPN also gets the rights to some Olympic and other non-revenue sports.

"We congratulate Larry Scott and his team for delivering on a grand scale for our conference, our university, our student-athletes and fans," Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said. "The new agreements dramatically increase our national exposure while providing a solid, long-term financial foundation to help ensure we remain self-sufficient."

Rights to some football and men's basketball games were not sold to Fox and ESPN, preserving some premium property the conference can use for a Pac-10 network to go along with Olympic and other non-revenue sports, a person close to the deal said. Along with increasing rights fees and exposure, as this deal does, Scott also went into talks looking to start a Pac-10 network to provide an outlet to broadcast non-revenue sports and to help brand the conference.

Finalizing a media rights deal is the latest step in the transformation of the conference under Scott, who took over from Tom Hansen in July 2009.

Scott spearheaded last year's expansion effort and then got the schools to agree to an equal revenue-sharing plan and aggregate all of their media rights at the conference level.

That set the stage for the television negotiations, which began in earnest April 1. Although Comcast/NBC was an aggressive bidder and Turner Sports also was interested, incumbents Fox and ESPN won out.

This deal means full revenue sharing will kick in as soon as this contract begins. As part of an agreement to give up their historically larger share of television revenues, Southern California and UCLA each was to receive a $2 million premium any year that the media rights did not reach $170 million.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.