The Pac-12 Conference is losing almost $5 million in TV money for each football game it cancels due to COVID-19, according to multiple people familiar with the numbers.
It’s a financial hit for the conference, which has already nixed five games in less than three weeks of play. This weekend’s contest between Arizona State and Colorado is the latest, cancelled because of positive tests within the Sun Devils program.
The losses come from the Pac-12’s main TV contracts with ESPN and Fox Sports, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the conference’s financials are private. The financial ramifications pale in comparison to what would have been lost had the conference not played at all this fall, as it originally planned back in August.
Representatives for the Pac-12, ESPN and FOX declined to comment.
Pac-12 schools appear willing to break from conventional norms to squeeze in games. Last week, when both UCLA and California lost opponents due to positive tests, the two schools agreed to play each other on 48 hours’ notice. They kicked off at 9 a.m. local on Sunday morning in a game carried by Fox’s FS1.
The losses will eventually trickle down to the 12 schools, which split the bulk of the conference’s revenue. For the 2018-19 school year, the share for each team was around $33 million, the majority of which comes from media money for football games. That share will drop this year, one of the people said.
The Pac-12 was set to be paid roughly $300 million this year for its top-tier football and basketball media rights, part of long-term deals with Fox and ESPN that will expire in 2024. Under those deals, the two networks share 44 football games per year. The conference originally cancelled its fall football season in August, then reversed course in September.
The Pac-12 is the only Power Five conference that wholly owns its media company, a deliberate approach by leadership that has likely hampered short-term revenue in the hopes of making up for it with a big contract(s) in the next round of negotiations.