The new conference doesn't officially exist until July, but the way they're branding this thing up we suppose it's time to start calling the Pac-10 the Pac-12. The conference has more than earned a title bump, with today's announced media rights deal making membership the most lucrative gig in college sports history. A 12-year deal with ESPN and FOX, running through the 2024-2025 season, will reportedly net the conference a total of around $3 billion, pushing about $21 million a year to each program.
The deal was announced by a justifiably-preening Larry Scott, along with reps from the two networks, at the Arizona Biltmore Wednesday morning. (Quoth the Fox guy, "There are times when it makes sense to get together.") Some interesting details you may have heard, and some were new to all of us. A quick roundup:
• Changes are in store for both networks' coverage of Pac-10 sports. For example, FOX will begin showing college football games on FX, as previously reported, while ESPN will undertake a new Saturday late-night game broadcast, ending an era of West Coast ball being relegated to channels East Coast fans don't get.
• The two networks will implement a draft-like system for sharing game coverage, and will take turns broadcasting the conference championship game.
• A dedicated Pac-12 network is a stated goal, but far more interesting is the establishment of a new company called Pac-12 Media Enterprises, which will develop the eventual conference channel, individual digital networks for universities, and Pac-12 Media Labs, dedicated to "innovating and developing ideas for sports broadcasting." For fans of sports and technology alike, it's going to be an exciting few years harnessing technical innovation out of the American West.
Pac-12 fans and fans-to-be will crow, and more than one major conference may wish it had grabbed for a larger brass ring, but it's hard not to see this development as a win for the sport, full stop. What this deal means at its heart is more college football on television, and that's never, ever a bad thing.