Pac-12 Conference Commissioner George Kliavkoff has been noticeably quiet, working in the background while the football season starts and the landscape of college sports continues to shift. Kliavkoff had no real chance to prevent USC and UCLA from leaving for the Big Ten, much as he had no real chance to undo Larry Scott’s disastrous Pac-12 Network television arrangement.
The fact that USC-Oregon State is on Pac-12 Network is not something Kliavkoff is responsible for. The structure of the TV allotments, guiding which networks get to pick certain games, was not something which could have been unwound in one year. Kliavkoff likely needed at least three years to do something about that. He is, on so many fronts, inheriting the mess Larry Scott left behind.
Kliavkoff is obviously very busy, but he realized he needed to get out in public and reassure member schools while charting a path forward for the Pac-12. He talked to John Canzano and Jon Wilner on a podcast released earlier this week.
Let’s take you through what Kliavkoff said, noting that some of the comments below can be found at John Canzano’s Substack.
You can listen to the full podcast from Canzano and Wilner.
ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS VS. TRADITIONAL TV PACKAGES
Kliavkoff to Canzano and Wilner:
“You’re thinking about it exactly the right way — it’s a balancing act. That’s the way we’re thinking about it.”
UCLA AND THE BIG TEN
This was an eye-grabber:
In the talk, Kliavkoff spoke candidly about his relationships with other commissioners. He believes UCLA will lose money — not make it — by going to the Big Ten. Kliavkoff also offered how delighted he was to see the Big Ten set a new market for live sports programming with its mega-deal.
“I was very, very happy with how the Big Ten’s media rights ended,” he said. “Do I wish they would have not included any schools from Los Angeles? Of course.”
PAC-12 FLIGHT RISKS
“Listen, I think if schools would have left for the Big Ten, they would have left for the Big Ten already,” Kliavkoff said.
“Certainly revenue is at the top of the priority list but we have to also balance that against distribution,” Kliavkoff said. “We really want our content to be available to any of our fans who want to see it. I’ve set a goal that our content should be available to any piece of glass connected to the internet as part of our next media rights negotiation.”
Kliavkoff talked about Pac-12 expansion, but he didn’t make it sound like a certainty. In fact, he didn’t really say adding schools has even been talked about, at least formally.
The commissioner did provide a rough timeline, though — get the media-rights deals done first, then make conference expansion decisions. I’m a little confused by the order of operation because potential conference expansion is a massive part of the media-rights calculus.
MEDIA RIGHTS COME FIRST
“I talk to our presidents and chancellors and athletic directors all the time, we have conversations about this. Everyone is committed to working together to get a great grant of rights following a good media rights deal,” Kliavkoff told Canzano and Wilner.
“A media rights deal allows us to have … a little bit more flexibility in scheduling our games,” Kliavkoff said. “Our campuses do not love six- and 12-day picks, and not knowing when their games are going to be, or at what time, or on what network.”
“I always thought Pac-12 Network does a great job of producing content … where we fall short because of deals in place I can’t extricate us from this season or next season is distribution … we’re going to figure out the distribution mechanisms.”
SEQUENCING OF PLANS
“You get through your media rights negotiations and you have a recommended media partner(s). The essential terms, you bring that back to the presidents and chancellors with a recommendation. They approve the recommendation. Then they sign the grant of rights … then you think about expansion.”
“It’s going to be in the near future … but I don’t feel any sense of urgency at this point. No one (current Pac-12 school) is going anywhere (in realignment) … we have the runway to do it right, as opposed to doing it quickly.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF EXPANSION FOR THE PAC-12
“It makes your regular-season rights more valuable, because you’ll have more teams in the season in the hunt for the CFP.”
ON EXPANDING TO 12 PLAYOFF TEAMS FOR 2024 AND 2025
“We’re very focused on whether we can get expansion done for years 11 and 12 of the current contract (2024 and 2025). We’re doing the work … we’re 100-percent in favor of getting it done early.”
“I was in The Swamp. I saw that interception (thrown by Utah’s Cam Rising on the goal line in the final minute). It was crushing.”
ON INVESTING IN COLLEGE SPORTS AND THE CURRENT MODEL
“If I wanted to work in professional sports I would have gone back to working in professional sports. I worked in Major League Baseball earlier in my career. I hope everyone is here for reasons that are about expanding a system which promotes educational opportunities … for folks who would otherwise not get those opportunities through sports.”