Pac-12 Feels the Pinch as Media Rights Options Diminish

The gloves have come off in media rights negotiations between Amazon and the Pac-12 Conference. And here comes the steel fist that has helped make Amazon the country’s dominant e-commerce company.

Amazon is “playing hardball” in media rights negotiations with the hapless college conference, sources told Front Office Sports.

The tech giant is holding out for the best gaming deals and the best financial terms, sources said.

Founder Jeff Bezos’ Amazon didn’t grow to $513 billion in annual revenue by playing nice. If the Pac-12 thinks it’s going to get rich from Amazon, they’re wrong, sources said.

And the more bidders who drop out of the negotiations, the more leverage Amazon has over the conference.

Both CBS Sports and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports is out of bidding, according to Brett McMurphy from Action Network.

All this, of course, comes just days after the conference released a statement saying it expected to write a new media rights package “in the near future” – and characterized the negotiations as “positive”.

That leaves Amazon, Fox Sports, NBC and ESPN among a dwindling list of suitors for the Conference of Champions.

The problem for the Pac-12 is that most of the major media entities have made football deals in recent years. Or they hoard cash while the US advertising market weakens and an economic recession looms.

In August, the Big Ten completed a seven-year rights deal with Fox, NBC and CBS worth a record $7 billion. So put down Fox as a long shot.

NBC is all in with the Big Ten and Notre Dame.

The Peacock Network’s new Big Ten deal runs through the 2029-2030 season. Its long-standing agreement for Fighting Irish home games runs through the 2025 season. So they can probably be counted out as well.

Amazon already has its big pro football deal in place with the NFL, paying $1 billion a year to exclusively stream “Thursday Night Football” through 2033. Do they need the Pac-12? Probably only on their own terms.

Then there is the Walt Disney Co. The majority owner of ESPN has outbid competitors for decades for college football rights. But Disney has suddenly discovered the benefits of frugality.

During a conference call with analysts, returning CEO Bob Iger warned that the entertainment giant will be more “selective” about expensive sports rights.

“I’ve had long conversations about this with (ESPN president) Jimmy Pitaro. And we have some decisions that we have to make – nothing particularly big, but on a few things, and we just have to be more selective, Iger said.

After all, ESPN has already gone up again with the Big 12. And the network has expressed interest in retaining media rights to the NCAA championship, sources previously told FOS. The NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament alone is likely to be worth more than double the $34 million a year that ESPN currently pays.

The Pac-12’s current 12-year deals with Fox and ESPN run through 2024 and have an average annual value of $250 million.

But USC and UCLA are betting on the rival Big Ten in 2024. The loss of those two prominent schools, and most of the Los Angeles television market, weighs on commissioner George Kliavkoff’s bargaining power.

Both the Pac-12 and Amazon declined to comment.

Editor’s note: FOS reporter Amanda Christovich contributed to this story.

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