Bowlsby, Scott talk new Pac-12 media deal
Director of Athletics Bob Bowlsby shed light on the Pac-12’s new media deal on Wednesday, detailing the ways in which both Stanford and the conference would benefit from the conference’s freshly-inked TV contract.
“It’s a very large opportunity for us going forward both financially and from an exposure standpoint,” he said.
The conference will earn $3 billion over 12 years from its partnership with Fox and ESPN. Every football and men’s basketball game will be televised and available in all markets, either by those networks or by a new Pac-12 channel, which will be created by the newly formed Pac-12 Media Enterprises. Most women’s basketball games will also find their way to the airwaves, and a conference-specific station means that smaller sports can also be televised.
“The exposure we’re going to get on Fox national and ESPN and ESPN2 is substantial for our men’s basketball program. For football, we’re going to have a lot of exposure not just in frequency but also in terms of time placement,” Bowlsby said.
In announcing the deal, commissioner Larry Scott emphasized three priorities: increased revenues, improved national exposure and the creation of a Pac-12 network.
“With today’s announcement with Fox Sports and ESPN, I am thrilled to be here today to say that we will be able to achieve all three of these goals,” Scott said.
According to Bowlsby, who was in Phoenix for the announcement of the deal, the conference’s annual revenue will be split equally among all 12 member schools, and the first year of the deal will see the conference earn about $180 million, with revenue increases in each of the successive years.
The difference in Stanford’s annual take-home between this contract and the last one is dramatic.
“After transactional costs and overhead, it’ll be about triple what we’re getting now. The difference will be about $5 million and change versus $15-16 million and change,” Bowlsby said.
The money will not kick in until 2012-13, and Bowlsby said that the Athletics Department has not yet begun to do serious modeling of the distribution of the new revenue. That said, he indicated that Stanford’s cut of the deal was larger than he had expected and that the new money would be able to provide for the department in a number of ways, although Bowlsby was in favor of a conservative approach.
“We have not had the ability to put away reserves for facility needs. We’ve had generous people donate money,” he said. “We’re going to try and save as much of it as we can.”
Some of the facilities upgrades may go right into helping Stanford optimize as much of its deal as possible. Bowlsby said that the department would look into optimizing its venues to help with digital distribution through media such as ESPN3 and 3D television.
In other areas, Bowlsby did anticipate spending more money on chartering flights for the men’s and women’s basketball teams so that the squads could avoid missing significant class time during the conference schedule. He also figured that money could be spent to reinforce the budgets of some of Stanford’s smaller teams, some of which, such as fencing, have faced financial issues in the past few years.
“We try and fund our sports on a level to be excellent at what they do. And we do it for all 35-varsity sports. But there is no question this will give us a chance for stability,” he said.
Bowlsby also entertained the idea of adding a 36th varsity sport.
“We’d have to think about it to think about what we might add. No plans for expansion, but it’s not out of the question. We’re more than meeting our gender equity requirements. We’d be open-minded about it,” he said.
One area where Bowlsby did not anticipate spending money was on the hiring of new staff. The department has had to lay off numerous staff members in the past two years–including 21 in 2009–but Bowlsby said he did not “expect to add a lot of people.”
Bowlsby was noticeably optimistic but recognized that the influx of money would not be able to help the Athletics Department clear every hurdle it might face.
“This isn’t a silver bullet that is going to solve all of our problems,” he said. “But it will give us an infusion of revenue that will be very helpful.”
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