Pac-12 night games have value for ESPN, could help league survive

The Pac-12 misplaced its marquee soccer and basketball applications, its greatest media market and the hyperlinks to its principal recruiting pipeline three frenetic weeks in the past.

Since USC and UCLA made their flight plans identified, the convention has been portrayed as every thing from fragile and fractured to a carcass on the savanna awaiting vultures from the Huge Ten and Huge 12.

However the dire predictions seemingly overlook one necessary component because the convention negotiates a brand new media rights package deal: The Pac-12 affords ESPN one thing no different Energy 5 league can match.

A gradual provide of night time video games.

“The fantastic thing about the Pac-12 is you may program that late (Saturday) window for 13 consecutive weeks,’’ stated John Kosner, a sports activities media guide, president of Kosner Media and former government vp/digital media at ESPN.

“It takes a convention to try this, as a result of it’s exhausting for particular person faculties to play greater than a handful of these video games every season.

“Let’s say you get virtually a 1.0 ranking and 1.5 million houses on common per (night time) recreation. That’s appreciable viewers supply for 3.5 hours each Saturday. That’s very exhausting to interchange.

“It’s exhausting to take one thing away from any individual. The truth that the Pac-12 has been on ESPN for a very long time — it’s a part of the firmament there.”

In a twist worthy of #Pac12AfterDark, the reviled night time video games may play an important position within the convention’s survival.

Sure, Larry Scott acquired one thing proper.

“No person else can fill these time zones,” stated Ed Desser, the president of Desser Sports activities Media and former government vp for strategic planning/enterprise improvement on the NBA.

ESPN’s faculty soccer programming template options 5 home windows: School GameDay at 8 a.m. (Japanese), adopted by kickoffs at 12 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 8 p.m. (primetime on ABC) and late night time.

Whereas the late video games (10 or 10:30 p.m.) lose viewers when followers within the japanese half of the nation go to mattress, they nonetheless carry vital worth for ESPN due to their unopposed nature — no different Energy 5 video games are being performed — and the 12-hour cross-promotional alternatives baked into earlier programming on ESPN.

That provides the Pac-12 a bonus over the reconfigured Huge 12, which could have just one staff (Brigham Younger) within the western half of the nation, dwelling to 75 million folks.

“I’d argue that if ESPN misplaced the Huge Ten, it might have the Huge 12, ACC and SEC video games for the Japanese and Central time zones,” Kosner stated. “However with out the Pac-12, it doesn’t have the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

“It might probably’t get these video games anywhere else.”

One motivation for ESPN because it ponders a brand new contract with the Pac-12: affiliate charges.

The community generates immense income from the charges it costs distributors (DISH, Comcast, and many others.) to hold its programming. These distributors, in flip, want content material that appeals to audiences in main media markets in an effort to drive month-to-month subscriptions.

“School soccer is a crucial a part of ESPN’s lineup,” Desser stated. “Affiliate income doesn’t go up or down, it’s based mostly on the programming you've got acquired. ESPN has a bunch of associates on the West Coast, and having the Pac-12 goes an extended approach to making them joyful.”

Not solely is the Pac-12 distinctive among the many Energy 5 in its capability to fill the late home windows for ESPN’s associates, the native markets are substantial.

The ten remaining faculties account for six of the nation’s high 30 media markets, based on Nielsen DMA information from 2021:

No. 6 Bay AreaNo. 11 PhoenixNo. 12 SeattleNo. 16 DenverNo. 21 PortlandNo. 30 Salt Lake Metropolis

“You can't exchange the scores with the Mountain West,” Kosner stated. “ESPN’s associates on the West Coast are used to having the Pac-12.”

There’s further worth for ESPN in a area of the convention you won't anticipate.

Whereas Cal and Stanford have struggled on the sphere and don’t drive huge scores, they reside in an enormous media market that features Huge Tech corporations with executives who attended Pac-12 universities and comply with the convention.

“The Bay Space viewers is influential,” Kosner stated.

The late home windows are so important to the Pac-12’s media valuation that Kosner believes Thursday and Friday video games “are prime alternatives” to discover with future community companions.

Theoretically, commissioner George Kliavkoff may supply ESPN a premium matchup every Saturday night time and a secondary recreation each Thursday or Friday, giving the convention a minimum of 26 night time broadcasts through the common season.

With every window spanning 3.5 hours, that’s nearly 100 hours of faculty soccer programming — a lot of it unopposed and supported by cross-promotion.

“There are two sorts of valuations: marginal and intrinsic,” Desser stated. “The Pac-12 has extra intrinsic worth due to these time slots.”

Underneath the present media contract with Fox and ESPN, every soccer broadcast is price roughly $6 million to the Pac-12.

The lack of the L.A. faculties undoubtedly will influence valuation, however any lower could possibly be largely offset by market forces:

The worth of sports activities rights has soared because the Pac-12 signed its media deal 11 years in the past.

“We haven’t accomplished a valuation on the late window,” Kosner stated. “However the reality is the Pac-12 can program for the late window with out or with out the L.A. faculties, and it’s not just like the L.A. faculties have been the best rated. Oregon and Washington have been.

“If you happen to’re ESPN, you need the Pac-12 to carry collectively.”

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