Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News has done Pac-12 fans a favor with this exhaustive review of the current state of the conference's television negotiations. Among the details:
- After paying the league $25 million for the Pac-12 championship game rights, Fox is the "clubhouse leader" to become the league's next television partner; a new deal could move Pac-12 games to Fox proper and off of FoxSports
- As the league's current television partner, Fox enjoys exclusive negotiation rights until that window closes sometime in "early May"; a new deal could be reached before that window expires
- After expenses, the championship game deal should net each school somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 million
- ESPN is almost certainly not going to bid for the Pac-12 contract.
I also believe commissioner Larry Scott wants to make the Pac-12 Network happen, and that the only reason it won’t happen is if Fox essentially pays the league to not form a network ...
[T]he Pac-12 Network would do more than provide an increase in football and men’s basketball viewing opportunities for fans inside and outside the league’s footprint.
It would also provide a broadcast outlet for the Pac-12’s Olympic sports, which are not only highly successful – the league is an Olympic medal machine — but also so important to the conference['s] longstanding commitment to providing broad-based athletic opportunities.
Within the league’s inner circles, the importance of providing a broadcast outlet for the Olympic sports cannot be overstated.
There's little doubt this would be the first time major college football would be impacted by Cal and Stanford's bitter water polo rivalry. As for Fox potentially paying the league to keep its games on its FoxSports regional networks, given the success Fox has already enjoyed with the Big Ten Network, this seems unlikely.
But as much desire as Scott and the conference might have for their own network, it doesn't mean it's going to be smooth sailing getting it up and running. Wilner points out that the logistics could be "expensive and complicated," with the biggest obstacle being Time Warner Cable. The cable goliath has balked at hosting new sports networks before -- it still doesn't carry the NFL Network, according to Wilner -- and would be able to all-but singlehandedly keep the "P12N" out of Los Angeles, the league's largest and most critical market by a mile. If Time Warner refuses to play ball, will it even be worth the league's effort to build the network in the first place?
If everything goes according to plan for the Pac-12, by fall 2012 Fox will be paying the league a handsome sum commensurate with the SEC's and Big Ten's deals, airing the league's football games in primetime on broadcast television, and helping the league put together an in-house network that would dramatically increase both revenues and exposure. But whether the last part of that plan comes to fruition, only Time (Warner) can tell.