In only a year the newly formed Pac-12 conference has welcomed two new Universities with conference membership (Colorado and Utah) and has overhauled outdated operating practices that have plagued the league’s publicity for the past 25 years.
By now everyone has heard about Commissioner Larry Scott’s breakthrough television deal with ESPN and Fox Sports for an NCAA record $250 million per year. As a result, each school in the conference can expect nearly $21 million per year in their coffers over the life of the 12-year contract.
What is next for Scott in his media quest could be revolutionary — changing the future of watching college athletics.
How you ask? By partnering with tech giants Apple and Google to form an innovative Pac-12 network slated to begin in August 2012. The network would exclusively broadcast games live and on-demand online with optimization for viewing on all major tablets and mobile phones.
Of course, choosing a non-traditional media format today creates some short-term drawbacks that Scott will clearly have to consider. First, many older (and younger) fans are conditioned to watch sports on the television and the loss of viewers early on would likely exist. As Jon Wilner from the San Jose Mercury News points out, “The Google/Apple TV model is clearly a play on the future — in three or five years, big screen televisions and laptop computers will be one in the same.”
The second drawback as Wilner mentions is the lack of subscription revenue that all other conferences enjoy. “The drawback to this approach is that in the short-term, the conference would give up the revenue that comes from subscription fees — it would rely on advertising alone for revenue.”
It remains to be seen what kind of a value these advertising revenues would generate compared to the subscription fees that ESPN and other outlets generate from cable subscribers.
Short-term drawbacks aside, this deal would strongly position the Pac-12 as a leader when all of this next generation technology fuses together. While other conferences will likely follow the Pac-12’s lead with internet deals of their own, the league will have an enormous advantage by working out the kinks when other conferences are just be getting started.
With Google being founded by Stanford graduates and Steve Jobs living within walking distance of the Stanford University campus (and short drive to Pac-12 headquarters) the Pac-12 might have the foresight and connections to kick-start the future of watching college sports.
Author: Simon Ogus works in communications at the University of Maryland. Previously, he’s worked in the Stanford and George Washington University athletic departments in PR and received his Master’s degree in Sports Management in 2010 from George Washington University. He currently resides in Washington, DC but is originally from Palo Alto, CA and has not abandoned his local teams. His longtime suffering as a sports fan ended last year when the Giants finally won their first World Series in San Francisco last year.