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Will Amazon Or Apple TV + Offer The Pac-12 Deal They Can’t Say No To?

With the conference running out of options, Amazon or Apple TV+ might be the best deal left.

WASHINGTON — If we are to believe what we read in trade publications the Pac-12 new media deal is in the works with ESPN, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+ presently left at the table. What we have been able to read from the tea leaves is that the conversation about a possible deal is one that is heavy on streaming distribution over a more traditional model of liner TV.

In a perfect world Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff would have CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and maybe even a streamer like Amazon or Apple taking part of the package. Kliavkoff, does not live in that world his options remain dealing with Apple, Amazon, and ESPN which means a strong possibility of more streaming and fewer games on traditional outlets. 

NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 29: Amazon Prime Thursday Night Football Executive Producer Fred Gaudelli works from the broadcast room during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 29, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee.  COOPER NEIL/GETTY IMAGES 

When I sat down to write this article it was to point out how hard it would be to say no to Amazon or Apple because a great deal of research and develop money flows into member schools not to mention the alumni base who work in the tech industry based less than an hour from the Pac-12 offices. But things have changed very quickly to the point where the hard part might be saying yes. Indications point to Apple TV as the front-runner and attempts are being made by Kliavkoff, to carve out a package to include ESPN and Amazon.

(As is the case with all that has gone on with this deal who the front-runner could change.)    

A note to the athletic directors who want exposure saying no to Apple and Amazon because of their preference for a liner partner. Perhaps they haven’t been paying attention the only possibility for that to happen is to take a low-ball deal from ESPN that would get a few games on the network but likely a huge package on their streamer ESPN +.

It should be pointed out that Apple CEO Tim Cook is a college sports fan and alum of Auburn where he has been seen on the sidelines during football games but when basketball season comes it is off to Duke where he got his graduate degree, and he takes his place court side to watch games with Coach K. In 2019 less than one month after the launch of Apple TV+ Cook made it clear he wanted the Pac-12 rights and sent some of his senior staff over to meet then-commissioner Larry Scott to find out what it would take to land the rights that were not up till 2024.

ANAHEIM, CA – MARCH 24: CEO of Apple Tim Cook is seen at halftime at the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament West Regional at the Honda Center on March 24, 2016, in Anaheim, California.  HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES


During an interview in 2019 with the San Francisco Examiner former Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shuken said that Apple is “very interested in learning more about the rights and learning more about the business to determine whether they’d be a viable partner in 2024.” Shuken closed with. “They said that, on the surface, we look like a good partner to investigate. Apple wants the Pac-12 conference’s “primary media rights package, not a digital one.”

Even with USC and UCLA gone Cook never took his eve off his goal to land the Pac-12 media rights. Now four years later a yes answer might come not because he was the first choice but likely because he kept his focus on landing the prize. 

In the Pac-12 Academics Matter and the Tech Companies Rule:  

The Pac-12 charter puts winning in the classroom before winning on the athletic fields and the members take pride that year after year they are among the top conferences in bringing in more research money per year than most other power 5 conferences. The Pac-12 graduation rate is also among the top of the Power 5 conferences and in 2022 Stanford had a 96% graduation rate followed by Utah 93%, so clearly academics means something to each member schools but also keeping high quality athletics in the mix is a factor as they view the upcoming media deal.

The Pac-12 presidents are in a unique situation they have been recruiting students to their institutions using their close ties to the tech industry, especially in California and Washington state. From serving as research and development incubators to internships, that lead to jobs for graduates all the Pac-12 member schools have benefited from the conference’s relationship to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the countless companies, that it takes to support the tech industry.


Stanford is the home of Apple’s multi-million-dollar Virtual Reality research and development lab along with the medical school has an arraignment with the company to test the Apple Watch heart monitoring program. A study done by Universum in November 2022 proved how involved Cal and Stanford are in the tech industry.

Stanford has the highest number of alumni (16,326) who have been employed at top tech destinations such as Google, Amazon, and Apple, with the University of California Berkeley, just across the Bay, a close second with 16,124 with most of those students hired from both Pac-12 schools being graduates with business degrees.

Up the coast in Seattle, the University of Washington and Amazon have joined together to create a Science Hub, an effort that deepens the relationship between the two organizations and will advance innovation in core robotics, artificial intelligence technologies, and their applications.

Amazon’s initial investment of $1.9 million will support a broad set of programs, including fellowships for doctoral students, collaboration among researchers, and support for collaborative research events. The hub’s initial focus will accelerate AI, robotics, and engineering in the Seattle area while embracing neighboring academic institutions and the public through events.

In total there are presently around 17,000 graduates who have found a job at either Amazon or Microsoft not to mention the many start up smaller tech companies in the Seattle area. Washington State has involvement in the tech industry as well but on a much smaller scale than their rivals in Seattle, but it is not insignificant. 

Ever heard of the Silicon Forest? Well, if attend either Oregon or Oregon State then you know about the high-tech campus that is home to many firms who have found the state business friendly. Apple and Amazon have a major presence in Silicon Forest and actively recruit students from Oregon as well as Oregon State. 

Meanwhile, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah all have robust tech departments that have benefited from the conference’s relationship with the tech companies. Both Arizona and Utah were helped by their relationships with other Pac-12 schools in attaining membership in the highly respected Association of American Universities (AAU) the 66 top research institutions in the country.

You can win in the classroom as well as on field as Stanford has proven by winning 131 NCAA team national championships, the most of any Division 1 school . Stanford has won these NCAA team championships in 20 different sports.

Apple ready for the close.

We are told that commissioner Kliavkoff who has been part of the witness relocation program for the past month is nearing a deal, he more than anyone knows the importance of the package he will present. If Apple TV+ turns out to be the top bidder if he needs him Tim Cook is a hell of a salesman and calmed the fears of the MLS owners in a conference call just before the deal was inked.

Kliavkoff will also have access to Cook’s right-hand man Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President of Services of Apple, who masterminded the tech giant’s deal to stream every MLS game through a joint platform between them and the league. It was also Cue who met with Fox Sports President Eric Shanks to set up a package of 15 games that Apple will produce and stream but air on the liner network. 

 “As part of that agreement with Apple we discussed the idea, and they agreed and in fact endorsed the idea of us doing some selected linear agreements so that we could continue to show our product to fans who either haven’t seen it or are in the process of becoming streamers and aren’t yet,” MLS deputy commissioner Gary Stevenson said in an interview. “We wanted to make sure that as this transition is happening, we still had exposure.”

Here are some of the possible options on how the deals could work. 

Let’s begin with Apple TV+ they find a liner partner to sublease some games I still think Fox, CBS, or even the CW would be willing to listen to package for the right price. There could still be place for ESPN to have their Pac-12 After Dark package. 

Amazon gets a Friday Night Game of the week meanwhile ESPN airs two Saturday with the rest airing on ESPN+ that would solve the liner issue but would the Worldwide Leader in Sports put up the cash to make everyone happy remains the issue.

Apple TV+ gets the whole package and ESPN gets two games one Friday and the other Saturday.

The number to beat or match is $31 million per member per year and everyone knows that anything less than $28 million is likely to cause some schools to at least consider a move to the Big 12.  

There needs to be some creative deal working by the conference to make sure everyone is happy. No matter what the package it will require accepting that you will be streaming more than liner.   

In recent days many of the Pac-12 presidents and A.D.’s have gone on the record telling the press what the expect to see in the best and final offer to the Pac-12. It is hard to believe that Kliavkoff is not aware of those details and the dollar figure, so the pressure is on the commissioner to deliver and get either Amazon or Apple TV+ to a yes from his members. 

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