When Larry Scott became the Pac-10 commissioner, he was considered someone who was forward thinking and media savvy, especially when it came to negotiating TV and sponsorship deals.
As chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, Scott led the organization to its largest sponsorship deal in its history ($88 million deal with Sony). Revenues increased by about 250 percent.
This was women’s tennis. College athletics (read: college football) should be a snap, right?
Pac-12, in the beginning …
I recall at his first appearance at the Pac-10 (that’s right, before Pac-12) football media days, many media members left. It was mid-day, lunch was starting and some reporters already were conducting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches. Meanwhile, Scott talked about expanding the conference and creating a Pac-10 Network.
Here we are, not quite a decade later, and it’s now the Pac-12 (Colorado and Utah instead of coveted Texas and Oklahoma) and the Pac-12 Network is on the air.
And, according to recent reports, it’s struggling.
In a report by al.com’s John Talty, the Pac-12 is valued at $320 million, which pales in comparison to the $1.142 billion value of the Big Ten Network and the $4.692 billion of the SEC Network.
Incoming Pac-12 Network president Jon Wilner said he believes the problem is there’s a big disconnect between the schools and what the network is actually doing.
The revenue sports, according a report from SBNation.com, aren’t getting as much as much exposure as the non-revenue (or Olympic) sports. The story suggests production value has suffered as a result.
Turning Pac-12 around?
It’s true that some Pac-12 schools tend to put as much value on women’s water polo as they do football. But in the Midwest and especially in Southeast, the loyalties to the football team extend to the other sports.
For example, college baseball in the SEC gets way more attention than it does in the rest of the country. It seems perfectly normal in the South to have a regularly scheduled radio broadcast be interrupted on a Tuesday evening for a regular-season, non-conference baseball game between Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe. And, naturally, it wouldn’t be broadcast if the local ratings weren’t there.
That’s not happening in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix or even Salt Lake City. And that’s why so many fans in the South see the SEC Network as more than must-see TV. It’s a godsend.
It’s tough for the Pac-12, but it goes beyond just paying more attention to the revenue sports and less attention to the non-revenue, or even improving production values for all of it. It’s about changing a mindset of the fans in the media markets in which the teams exist. That’s an uphill battle for sure.
And it’s all about contending with that same old thing that hasn’t changed and likely never will: West Coast sports fans just have too many options.
Maybe $320 million is as good as it gets. Good luck, Jon.
Blind-sided: Michael Oher, the former Ole Miss lineman and subject of the book and movie “The Blind Side” surrendered to Nashville police and was charged with misdemeanor assault. Oher is being accused of assaulting an Uber driver following a dispute. I don’t know what the argument was about, but if Michael Oher told me he wanted to go to Canada … uh, we gone. And it’s on me.
Making it rain in the NCAA: Saturday Down South reports that five out of the Top 10 and 10 out of the top 25 richest athletic programs in the nation are in the SEC. A surprise to anyone who read the lead item.
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