Pac-12 to Investigate Taking Back Multimedia Rights

Really terrific article in the Sports Business Journal by John Ourand and Michael Smith regarding the Pac-12’s next step in regards to how they will deal with the multimedia rights of their members.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is considering a model that would permit Pac-12 schools to take back their multimedia rights and coordinate with the conference and then they could do with those rights as they wish.

By the end of the six months, the conference intends to provide its schools a specific financial model and a long-term forecast on revenue.

Ultimately, sources say, Scott would like to have school and conference rights rolled into one package for the next round of media contract talks with ESPN and Fox, whose 12-year, $3 billion deal with the conference runs through 2023-24.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the situations of our schools, including new ideas for increasing revenue,” Scott said. “We’ll explore any and all ways to look at the multimedia rights space.”

Cutting out the third parties in favor of a conference-run model fits with Scott’s approach. When the league launched the 3-year-old Pac-12 Networks, Scott opted to have the conference own and operate the channels rather than partner with a media giant like ESPN or Fox, even though to date that model has not proved to be as lucrative as other conferences.

The interesting thing here, I think, is that what they are talking about is the idea of IMG and Learfield no longer owning the rights for each program, but rather the school and then the school manages those rights as opposed to being owned by someone else. The article notes that there are only two programs in Power Five Conferences that manage their own multimedia rights, Michigan State and Arizona State. By removing that third party like Learfield and IMG, you gain some additional revenue that schools lose by using those services, but this is probably quite a bit more work.

Also interesting is the idea that Scott thinks that there’s no need for anyone else to own a program’s brand.  I think we’re eventually headed in that direction overall as athletic program can do so much in-house at this point.

The idea that the colleges essentially become their own marketing, branding and distribution center, the need for Learfield and IMG may be less necessary.  Texas Tech appears to be headed down that road as you see so much production coming from Texas Tech.  I think this is a bit dangerous for the consumer because having an NFL team or an NBA team or a college program disseminate all of the information isn’t good for anyone.  I know that newspapers like to get all riled up about blogs taking a part of the media market, but they should be more concerned about this move than anything else.

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