The conference of champions is long overdue for a needed face lift. The league which was once one of the wealthiest reported only $88.78 million in gross receipts for the 2007 fiscal year, putting it far behind the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC in overall revenues.
The SEC recently signed 15-year, $2.25 billion agreement with ESPN. That deal, combined with the SEC’s 15-year, $825 million agreement with CBS, means all SEC schools should reportedly earn $15-17 million annually from TV revenue this year.
The Big Ten has a 10-year, $1 billion package with ESPN, which, coupled with its 25-year, $2.8 billion deal with the Big Ten Network, guarantees that nearly every home Big Ten game is televised.
The Big 12 announced its latest TV contract extension, an eight-year, $480 million deal with ABC/ESPN that lasts through 2016. According to the deal, the Big 12 gets up to 19 ABC telecasts per season, including the league championship game. The league’s FSN deal is worth $78 million and goes through 2012.
New Pac 10 commisioner Larry Scott was hired to fix that disparity and it all starts with the next set of television contracts which begin negotiation in 2011 and start in 2013. The Pac 10 currently has the worst television contract in the BCS despite putting out a quality product on the field each year.
When the conference comes to the table in 2011 they need to rethink and reshape who they are. Currently it is a ten team league without a football championship game or a decent vroadcast contract that is isolated on the Western side of the country.
How will the Pac 10 re-package itself going forward? Will they follow the example of the Big Ten and SEC who have both launched their own regional television networks? Will they expand by adding two or more members so they can have a championship game and add more TV sets to their viewing area?
Currently the Pac 10 has a television market consisting of Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona which accounts for 16.794% of all the viewers in the country.
The Denver market would be a good edition to the conference. According to Nielson you would add 1.624% of the nations viewers with that move plus pick up most of Wyoming, and Montana which while negliglible on their own could push the numbers close to 2% overall.
Utah has a much smaller television market than Colorado. While the University of Utah might be a nice fit academically with the rest of the Pac 10 the TV numbers simply aren't there. The Salt Lake market only accounts for .844% of the nations viewers.
So what all these figures break down to is very simple. If the Pac 10 expands into Colorado and Utah they will expand their TV base from 16.794% to 19.221%. However if they were able to expand into Texas and Colorado the numbers would go up dramatically to 24.706%
Dallas is the fifth largest TV market in the country and over 6% of all the TV sets in the country reside inside the state of Texas. It makes sense for the Pac 10 to take a long look at Texas.
If the Big Ten raids the Big East for a Pittsburgh it isn't going to really shake anything up in the BCS. If they take a Missouri though it could be the start of the demise of the Big 12. If they were to go for broke and form a super conference of 16 teams it will put pressure on the other BCS conferences to do the same which would likely break up the Big East and the Big 12.
Financial solvency will dictate the next round of conference realignment in major college sports, and the Pac-10 needs to be the first domino to fall or risk falling further behind the other BCS conferences. A coordinated effort with the Big Ten to invite the Missouri and similarly host a championship game in football could successfully result in Colorado leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10.
Keep an eye on what the Big Ten is up to. It could open the door for the Pac 10 to expand into the Rocky Mountains and beyond.