With Fox`s exclusive negotiating window expiring Thursday, the conference can now shop the rights to some 2,700 events a year and a possible partnership in a Pac-12 network to a bevy of interested media and technology companies.
The conference has 12 teams with next season`s additions of Colorado and Utah, covers one-fifth of the country and is the last major college property on the market for at least a few years.
That is expected to lead to fierce bidding from incumbents Fox and ESPN, as well as Comcast and Turner Sports, that could make the Pac-12 one of the highest revenue-producing conferences in the country. The Pac-10 is the second-lowest now.
College sports have fared well on the market in recent months, with the ACC reportedly getting $155 million a year for its rights and the Big 12 close to finalizing a deal with Fox, according to the Sports Business Journal, that will make its total annual package worth about $130 million.
That`s less than the behe-moths from the SEC ($205 million) and Big Ten ($220 million) but far more than the less than $60 million the Pac-10 pulled in this year.
"Despite the recession, it seems like sports programming costs continue to escalate through the roof," said Derek Baine, an analyst at the research firm SNL Kagan.
While Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott has not publicly discussed what he believes he can get in the new deal, he clearly is shooting high. One key mark will be $170 million per year, because USC and UCLA would get $2 million bonuses until that level is reached.
"You`ve seen every conference significantly increase their value and that`s because ratings are tremendous," Scott said. "If you compare the ratings and value in college sports to the NFL, proportionally based on ratings and viewership, college sports, even with some of the record deals we have seen recently, are still undervalued."
Scott has laid out three major goals he`s looking to satisfy in a new television deal: increase revenue; increase national exposure for football and men`s basketball; and create a new network to promote women`s and Olympic sports.