Canzano: Pac-12 + Big 12 doesn't fit... onto the ACC
Talks break down.
The Big 12 reportedly informed the Pac-12 on Monday evening that it’s not interested in merging.
A few quick thoughts…
• I’m not shocked. I felt like a Big 12 + Pac-12 merger was wishful thinking. There’s strength in numbers, sure. But ultimately this is about fit and I struggled to see how those two conferences would mesh in a way that worked for both entities.
• The Pac-12 (minus USC and UCLA) will have 12.5 million television households in its remaining markets. The Big 12 currently has only 10.2 million TV homes, but will expand to about 15 million after the additions of BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston. Keep those numbers in mind.
• The ACC has 28.2 million households. It’s TV markets are superior to the Big 12 and its not close. Also, the ACC already has a partnership with ESPN, which covets inventory in the Pacific Time Zone.
• I’ve wondered for a while how the Big 12 might fit in a new deal between ESPN and the Pac-12. Answer: It really doesn’t.
• The Big 12 and Pac-12 university presidents and chancellors didn’t feel like a seamless fit. Those who lead the Pac-12 campuses fashion themselves academics and lined up with the Big Ten over the years because of that.
• I’ve been writing and talking about a “loose partnership” between the Pac-12 and the ACC for a couple of weeks. I still believe this is headed in that direction.
• The Big 12’s television contract isn’t up until 2025. The Pac-12’s expires in 2024, but it has opened negotiations early. Those in the industry tell me this difference shouldn’t have been a deal breaker but it’s being cited as one of the reasons.
Bob Thompson, the former president of Fox Sports Networks, told me on Monday night, “If the Big 12 TV partners agreed to open negotiations early, that could easily happen before 2024. Nothing precludes an early negotiation as long as parties agree.”
So it just sounds like a merger wasn’t a good fit.
Added Thompson: “So now we see if somebody plays ‘Let’s poach some teams.’”
• There was early speculation that the Big 12 might chase Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. But media reports about that were shot down by my Pac-12 sources. I won’t speak for all four of those schools, but the prevailing sentiment from athletic directors within the Pac-12 is that the remaining 10 universities will stick together and ride out the current media rights negotiations together. I’ll make some calls and report back with updates.
• Phoenix’s TV market has 2.1 million households. I’ve wondered for a while if ASU might try to leverage the Pac-12 for a larger share of the next media rights deal. That said, I have a difficult time actually seeing ASU bolt for the Big 12.
• The Big 12 programs that I think the Pac-12 (and ESPN) would be most interested in are: Kansas, Baylor, TCU and Houston. If the Pac-12 goes hunting, I expect those universities to be primary targets. This is 100-percent about potential television revenue.
• I included Kansas because I think ESPN would covet men’s basketball matchups featuring the ACC’s Duke and North Carolina and the Pac-12’s Arizona and Oregon. Kansas would be an interesting addition.
• The Pac-12 is in an exclusive negotiating period with ESPN and Fox. That window expires on Aug. 4, but I’m told the parties could come to an agreement before then.
• ESPN is the likely bidder here. Think about what that network needs. It has to think about the restless members in the ACC and how it might get them some additional revenue right now. A partnership with the Pac-12 makes sense to me. Sharing revenue with the Big 12 (Read: more mouths to feed) doesn’t.
• Pac-12 Media Day is July 29 in Los Angeles. Commissioner George Kliavkoff needs something to sell to the public during that event. I expect he’ll have something of substance. I don’t think we’re going to have to wait until Aug. 4.
More as this develops…
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