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ESPN ended negotiations with Pac-12 in 2022 after demand for $50 million per school

Matt Connollyby:Matt Connolly08/11/23


The Pac-12 is on the cusp of falling apart as all but four schools are leaving the conference for other opportunities.

The lack of a TV deal, or at least one that schools were happy with, played a big role in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah choosing to leave the league this summer.

According to John Canzano, ESPN offered a TV rights deal of $30 million per school last fall, which is a better offer than what Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff brought to the table from Apple this summer. However, Canzano reports that Pac-12 presidents and chancellors wanted more from ESPN, asking for $50 million per school.

ESPN declined, no deal was made and now the Pac-12 as we know it is no more.

Canzano reported that a source told him the exchange with ESPN and the Pac-12 went as follows:

“You know what we told ESPN after their $30 million per-school offer? … We said we want $50 million per school.”

Canzano then asked the source: “What was the ESPN response?” He was told: “Goodbye.”

The report from Canzano adds that several people in the Pac-12 blame Kliavkoff for the conference falling apart. For months, Kliavkoff said publicly and privately that he was working on a TV deal that would put Pac-12 schools in a good spot. He went as far as to say last month at Pac-12 media days that: “The longer we wait for the media deal, the better our options get.”

Instead, Kliavkoff finally presented a deal to Pac-12 schools that not everyone was sold on.

According to Canzano, Apple eventually offered $25 million per school and production costs were covered. However, some athletics directors and school presidents saw the deal as similar to the incentive-laden Pac-12 Network deal, which was not as successful as was hoped.

With the Apple deal, schools would have had to sell annual subscriptions for $100 each, according to Canzano. The exposure also would have likely been well behind the exposure that playing on ESPN or Fox would have brought.

Despite all of that, the deal still nearly got done and most presidents and athletics directors were on board. However, according to the report, 10 minutes before the meeting started to finalize the deal, Oregon and Washington made the decision to leave for the Big Ten. From there, the Pac-12 began falling apart more and more.

Canzano went on to detail other decisions Kliavkoff made that perhaps contributed to the Pac-12 slowly evaporating.

One of those was hiring Sports Media Advisors and its CEO Doug Perlman. Kliavkoff and Perlman reportedly attended law school together, and Canzano reports that adding Perlman “raised some eyebrows within the industry.”

That, a lack of a TV deal and other promises that weren’t delivered on played a role in Kliavkoff continuing to lose credibility with those in the Pac-12

He added that Fox was never seriously pushing for the Pac-12 and pointed out that the network could benefit from the Pac-12 falling apart as it would lead to some of those teams joining conferences where it was already heavily invested.