Pac-10 Teams With Fox, ESPN To Become College’s Richest Conference

The rising trend of media rights in college sports hit a new high this week when the Pac-10 signed a 12-year, $3 billion contract with Fox and ESPN. Beginning in 2012, the conference (which becomes the Pac-12 in July) will start its own cable-TV network but has sold the majority of its football and basketball game rights to the two networks. The deal, which charges Fox and ESPN more than four times what they were previously paying, gives the Pac-10 the most valuable contract of any college conference.

The to-be-named Pac-10 cable network will be fully owned by the conference, unlike the Big Ten Network (which is 49% owned by Fox Cable Networks) and the Longhorn Network (which is owned by ESPN). The new channel will carry at least 350 sports events, and a new digital channel will carry an additional 500 events annually. A new properties division will be formed to sell sponsorships.

Under the new agreement, Pac-10 football games will be split between Fox and ESPN. Fox can also put games on FX and Fox Sports Net regional networks, while ESPN can also air games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ABC. Men’s basketball games will be split among ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and Fox Sports Net, and ESPN will get the rights to about two dozen Olympic sports. The conference football championship game and men’s basketball tournament will alternate between the ESPN and Fox networks.

In terms of riches, this new deal puts the Pac-10 ahead of the ACC, which recently signed a $155 million/year deal; the Big 12, which has a $130 million/year package; the SEC, which gets $205 million per year; and the Big Ten, which has a $220 million agreement. The fact that the Pac-10’s negotiations took place after those conferences’ deals were completed, says conference Commissioner Larry Scott, helped push the numbers in Pac-10’s favor.

“It was a confluence of events,” Scott told the New York Times. “We were the last to go, which put a tremendous premium value on our rights. It’s all about market dynamics.”

Full revenue sharing among the 12 member schools of the new Pac-12 will begin with this new contract, in 2012-13.