*This story has been updated 2/28/23
(IF APPLE TV+ GETS THE ENTIRE PACKAGE BOTH FOX AND CBS WILL LISTEN TO AIRING A GAME OF THE WEEK AT THE RIGHT PRICE- SO AS I HAVE SAID MANY TIMES BEFORE NOTHING IS OVER TILL THE CONTRACT IS SIGNED.)
If the Pac-12 presidents were paying attention this weekend Apple TV+ proved that they can do multiple streams from coast to coast and deliver network quality broadcasts of the MLS games as well as studio shows from New York. Weekend number one of a ten-year agreement is in the books and despite snow on the Hollywood sign Apple showed the Conference of Champions why they want and more to the point can handle all of the content from football to field hockey.
So, the latest news on “as media rights deal turns,” is that Apple is getting ready to offer their bid, Amazon wants a Friday Night primetime in the East game to follow their Thursday Night NFL Game of the Week, ESPN wants their regular Saturday Night “Pac-12 After Dark.” New comer Scripps Sports – ION TV is their to be a possible partner for the over the air, cable rights and they should not overlooked.
(UPDATE- I HAVE CONFIRMED THAT ION WANTS TO GET A CALL BEFORE ANY PAC-12 DEAL HAS BEEN SIGNED RESERVING A RIGHT TO JOIN IN THE BID – THEY ARE INTERESTED IN SOME LOCAL SPORTS PACKAGES LEFT IN DOUBT AS WARNER-DISCOVERY HAS DECIDED TO GET RID OF THE AT&T SPORTSNET REGIONAL SPORTS BUSINESS)
ION TV is the 11th most watched network on broadcast television and cable placing them behind Hallmark ranking ahead of TBS, TNT and USA for starters. They are in all the Top 20 markets and 64 out of the top 100, plus they can be found on channel 305 on DirecTV and channel 250 on Dish as well as on most cable systems with a total reach of just over 100 million households nationally.
*ION TV can also be streamed free on the Roku channel and Tubi app.
Scripps Sports ION-TV and Apple TV+ are in the bidding for volume and a partnership between the two might just be what the doctor ordered for the Pac-12. Look, whatever deal is done it is going to be panned by the media and the Big 12 who seems hell bent on breaking the conference into bits not unlike what the ACC did to the Big East.
The best case senerio at this point for the Pac-12 is a partnership between Apple TV+ and ION, it might even be possible accommodate Amazon for a Friday night game and ESPN for the late night Saturday window.
In December 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook a huge sports fan sent one of his top executives Eddy Cue the senior vice president of Services, to meet with then Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott about becoming the home of all the Conference of Champions sports. Cue and Scott went over what it would take to get an exclusive deal that would start in 2024.
The duo played out a scenario where Apple TV+ would make an all-in bid for everything possibly even buying or at least takeover over the Pac-12 Network. In a 2019 interview, my former colleague Tripp Mickle wrote this for the Wall Street Journal about Cue and his thoughts on bidding for the Pac-12, and here is what he said.
“Mr. Cue has questioned the value of a deal with the Pac-12 because it would only give Apple rights to some games, people familiar with his thinking said. He also recognized that if Apple ever secured rights to all the conference’s best programming, it would need to show some of those games on traditional, broadcast TV to satisfy fans.”
Even in 2019 Cue and Cook wanted all the Pac-12 content for their brand-new streaming service. Well, what started back in 2019 has now come full circle as a much stronger Apple TV+ has come calling for an all-streaming deal that would likely include the nearly 800 events scheduled for the 2024 season.
Apple was very smart in their deal with the MLS by hiring the duo of IMG and NEP to get the talent, the producers, directors and production staff for over 900 fixtures, adding up to more than 2,000 hours of live streaming coverage. The two international television giants are used to major live event television handling everything from the Olympics to the World Cup coverage.
In my Forbes column last week, I suggested that if Apple used that template, then it would make sense to take over the operation of the Pac-12 Network which because of its state-of-the-art production center can stream multiple events remotely from every conference member’s campus to one of the broadcast center’s five control rooms. There are no remote trucks needed, just camera people and the announcers can be on-site or do the play-by-play from the broadcast center saving Apple thousands of dollars in production costs.
So, to Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, I humbly offer this as a solution to the media rights deal. Award the entire rights deal to Apple TV+, have them offer a game of the week to ION Saturday night East Coast primetime, a game to ESPN for Pac-12 After Dark and a Friday night game to Amazon.
You may just end up with Apple and ION and that would not be a bad thing.
Jim Williams work is syndicated by Zenger News, Newsweek, Forbes and by Genesis Media worldwide.