One-on-One with Pac-10/Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
Today, we sat down with Larry Scott, the Commissioner of the Pac-10and the soon-to-be-named Pac-12.
Following his dance with Texas and the poaching of Big 12 teams, which garnered much attention this summer, the conference settled on Colorado and Utah.
This week, Scott took the conference’s football coaches to New York and later to ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., campus after unveiling a new logo.
Darren: Let’s go back to your wooing of Texas and the five other teams from the Big 12 to try to form the Pac-16, which obviously didn’t work out. What were you offering from a TV rights perspective that was a concrete guarantee and what ultimately happened, in your words?
Scott: I did not have any minimum guarantees to offer as far as what they would make if they would come to us. We were obviously working with CAA and they did some extensive modeling and projections for us and it was pretty clear the value was going to be enormous. And we talked to TV broadcasters who told us that they would stroke the check in the zip code we said we were going to be in. It was pretty clear from our membership that each school would get paid equally. Then there was Texas and its desire to have its own network. We were pretty adamant that we wanted to preserve the idea of having our own conference network. And finally, I think it was about the whole thing getting stomped by Texas politics. About 24 hours before I got the word, there were tensions between Texas and Texas A&M and Texas A&M was leaning closer to the SEC than they were to us. Then there was Baylor sitting there and it just got too hot in the kitchen.
Darren: So maybe you won’t have the same exact value without Texas, but you have four fewer teams. Knowing that, how much more or less is each team eventually going to get now compared to what would have been split up with a 16-team league?
Scott: If you’re asking me to compare what we’ll have in the Pac-12 versus what we would have had in the Pac-16, I’m guessing that the models are going to be pretty comparable as far as the split is concerned.
Darren: What have you done to try to make the bidding on your new television deal come in at higher numbers?
Scott: Well, we’ve obviously expanded our footprint by bringing in our two new schools to more homes and we’ve gone from scheduling in just the Pacific Time Zone to adding the Mountain Time Zone. We’re going to open up more broadcast windows to add more cumulative eyeballs by having basketball games on different days, whereas before it had only been on Thursday and Saturday. And we’ve made some concessions in order to get more exposure for our product. In the old world, if a game was on ABC regional, it wouldn’t be on ESPN2 as well because our conference had previously reasoned that it would need to get paid twice for that. We’ve made clear that we want as many people as possible to see our games.
Darren: The other conferences have negotiated football and basketball deals that span more than 10 years. Do you take that long term view or do you think that if conference expansion is not over that you do a shorter deal to maximum on potential expansion later?
Scott: The trend has been the 12, 15 and 20 years and we’ll probably go more along those lines. I have to negotiate with what I have now and that is 12 football teams with a conference championship game and to me a network is going to pay a premium for a long-term deal over a short one.
Darren: So much of what happened in the whole conference expansion game was about television. How will it work out for the new members of the league?
Scott: We made Colorado a full partner because it was basically equal to what they were earning in the Big 12. Utah was in a different situation coming from the Mountain West. So in the first year, in 2011, they won’t get any conference television money and they’ll be ramped up over the next two years to be a full sharing partner in 2013.
Darren: How much does the two-year bowl sanctions imposed on USC hurt the conference?
Scott: It certainly has a short term impact, and let me first say that it’s under appeal, but it shouldn’t have much of an effect in the long term. If the sanctions are upheld, they will be finished by the time we have a new television deal in 2012. USC is an attactive brand and I can see them returning to where they were without missing a beat.
Darren: How much work have you done towards building a conference network?
Scott: We’ve already done a lot of due diligence. I visited Mark Silverman at the Big Ten Network and walked it with him. I went through the whole process and understood that it’s not as profitable to the partners as people think because you do have to invest in the production and distribution of all the other sports. But I think there’s a high premium for it — especially in our conference where our Olympic sports are so strong. UCLA has had more titles than any other school, Stanford is always competing for the Director’s Cup. A network would create more awareness and understanding of how powerful and balanced our conference really is among all sports.
Darren: You placed great importance obviously on coming to New York to do this. Critics say that doing something like this is overrated. Joey Harrington’s billboard in Times Square really didn’t do anything to generate true Heisman buzz. What’s your take?
Scott: As far as I’m concerned, it has been a big success. Our objective was to set out on a long-term journey of awareness, exposure and familiarity. We had a cocktail party last night at the W Hotel and every TV network was represented – both our partners and perspective partners. We had our coaches sit down with all the national writers based in New York. There’s no silver bullet here to be more recognized and more respected, but we’re going to work really hard to do that. We opened the stock exchange this morning and there’s media day on the Rose Bowl field like the NFL does it. We’re taking the marketing of college sports to another level.
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