Mandel: TV numbers present Pac-12 may be more healthy than we expect (for now)

Proper after the Oklahoma-and-Texas-to-the-SEC bombshell broke final summer season, I carried out a frantic analysis undertaking inspecting the TV worth of the eight Huge 12 colleges left behind. There was hypothesis on the time that the Pac-12 or one other Energy 5 convention would swoop in and invite a number of of these colleges. I rapidly realized that wasn’t going to occur, upon seeing how poorly packages like Oklahoma State and Baylor fare within the Nielsen scores when not going through the Sooners or the Longhorns.

A yr later, the Pac-12 finds itself in a lot the identical predicament following USC and UCLA’s stunning departures for the Huge Ten. Given the Huge 12 has since stabilized itself with the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston, there are actually rumblings of that league making an attempt poach a mix of the remaining Pac-12 packages.

With the Pac-12 knee-deep in a 30-day negotiation window with ESPN and Fox for its subsequent deal, it was a no brainer for me to conduct an analogous examine of the ten remaining Pac-12 colleges’ TV performances. Are these colleges price extra, much less, or roughly the identical because the eight Huge 12 holdovers? And does the info help the prevailing notion that Oregon and Washington are notably priceless manufacturers?

The one remorse I had about that Huge 12 story is that it solely checked out two seasons’ (2018 and 2019) price of knowledge. That is too small a pattern measurement. Fortuitously, my colleague Andy Staples (with the assistance of Sports activities Media Watch) has since compiled a large database of each regular-season Nielsen-rated recreation since 2015 (excluding the statistically nugatory 2020 season). This allowed me to not solely go deeper with the Pac-12, however revisit and replace the Huge 12 for apples-to-apples comparisons.

(I didn’t embrace BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston within the Huge 12’s pattern, as they weren’t Huge 12 members on the time and, within the case of the latter three, have been largely going through Group of 5 and never Energy 5 opponents. )

Each conferences’ dwelling video games on ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and ESPNU have been included. Sadly, no information is on the market for the Pac-12 Community, Longhorn Community or ESPN+, which started airing Huge 12 video games in 2019. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless a comparatively comparable quantity of stock — after eradicating the departing members’ video games, about 52 per yr from the Huge 12 and 48 from the Pac-12.

Some key takeaways…

Dropping USC and UCLA just isn’t as catastrophic as dropping Oklahoma and Texas

It is completely nonetheless a intestine punch, however neither USC or UCLA have been as massive a draw lately as Oklahoma or Texas. Over six seasons, the Sooners averaged 3.26 million viewers per recreation, the Longhorns 2.7 million. Over the identical interval, the Trojans averaged 2.17 million per recreation, the Bruins 1.55 million. Whereas Oklahoma and Texas have been the Huge 12’s clear-cut prime two, USC was not considerably increased than Oregon (2.02 million), whereas UCLA ranked sixth within the Pac-12.

In fact, this era coincided with Clay Helton’s underwhelming tenure at USC, through which the Trojans went 46-32 and gained one Pac-12 title. The TV networks would know significantly better how properly USC charges when it is successful massive, prefer it did in the course of the Pete Carroll period.

That mentioned, Texas was 40-36 throughout the identical stretch and averaged a half-million extra viewers than the Trojans.

There’s an apparent motive for that, although. The conferences’ two media companions typically put their greatest video games each week on over-the-air networks ABC or Fox, the place video games often draw increased scores than on cable. Oklahoma and Texas appeared on 46 and 33 such broadcasts, respectively, in contrast with 28 for USC and 16 for UCLA.

In whole, 73 % of Fox and ABC’s Huge 12 picks included the 2 departing members, versus 53 % for the Pac-12. In actual fact, Oregon was chosen for the highest spot 18 occasions, two greater than UCLA.

Why, then, is not the Huge Ten taking Oregon as an alternative of or together with UCLA? As a result of the Los Angeles tv market is way more priceless.

It at the moment includes almost 5.5 million households. Getting the Huge Ten Community (which is majority owned by Fox) onto fundamental cable tiers there may be anticipated to generate tens of tens of millions yearly in new subscriber charges — whether or not or not these subscribers watch a single UCLA recreation.

Oregon and Washington draw properly — however do not forget Stanford

Oregon, which went to the Faculty Soccer Playoff the yr earlier than this era started, gained a Rose Bowl in 2019 and completed within the AP High 25 two different seasons, averaged 1.96 million viewers, even with its USC and UCLA video games eliminated. For perspective, the highest remaining Huge 12 program, Oklahoma State, averaged 1.28 million.

The subsequent-highest performer was a gentle shock: Stanford (1.83 million), which edged out Washington (1.73 million). Whereas the Cardinal have been dreadful the previous few seasons, they have been notable scores attracts within the days of Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. In 2016, a Friday night time ESPN recreation between No. 7 Stanford and No. 10 Washington drew 3.3 million viewers, third-highest of any Pac-12 recreation that season.

Stanford additionally will get important mileage out of its every-other-year dwelling video games towards Notre Dame. The 2 have performed yearly (save 2020) since 1997. The 4 installations throughout this era averaged 4.8 million. Whereas there isn’t any assure the sequence continues without end, an ESPN or Fox would possibly pay handsomely only for the rights within the occasion it does.

Everybody however Arizona and Oregon State averaged not less than 1.2 million viewers

Under is a chart of the remaining Pac-12 and Huge 12 colleges’ common TV scores, from 2015-19 and 2021. (Video games towards Oklahoma/Texas and USC/UCLA are excluded.)

1.96 million
1.83 million
1.73 million
1.59 million
1.49 million
1.44 million
1.28 million
1.27 million
1.22 million
1.19 million
1.10 million
1.07 million
1.04 million

That 1.2 million quantity would get laughed at within the Huge Ten or SEC. As Staples lately wrote, Auburn, even with marquee video games towards Alabama and Georgia excluded, has a median viewers that is twice as excessive (2.4 million).

However it might be of relevance given the present Huge 12/Pac-12 jostling going down farther down the observe.

That 1.2 million common is greater than all however two of the eight Huge 12 holdovers (Oklahoma State and TCU). Even Oklahoma State (1.28 million) would solely rank seventh among the many remaining Pac-12 colleges. On the floor, that appears preposterous, given the Cowboys, who went 12-2 final season and 57-22 over these six seasons, are gentle years higher on the sector than the forlorn Buffaloes (33-42).

However I believe I do know the reply.

Pac-12 After Darkish is a sneaky-big benefit

As a lot as Pac-12 coaches and followers detest these late video games, they often is the league’s saving grace in its subsequent deal.

Whereas the Huge 12 and Pac-12 have the identical two TV companions, their offers are structured otherwise. The Huge 12’s leftover eight had way more of their video games relegated to the scores graveyard that’s FS1 than the Pac-12’s, whereas the Pac-12 obtained extra pickups by predominant ESPN. And that is totally as a result of the league is ready to place video games at 10:30 pm ET, when no different Energy 5 leagues are taking part in.

In 2021, Pac-12 groups appeared on 12 ESPN video games that kicked off at 10 pm ET or later. These video games averaged 1.34 million viewers, and all however two broke 1 million.

As a result of ESPN reserves its earlier time slots nearly totally for the Huge Ten, SEC and ACC, the Huge 12’s greatest cable home windows are often daytime on ESPN2. Scores-wise, it is nonetheless higher to be on predominant ESPN, no matter kickoff time.

For instance, on Nov. 20 final season, Arizona State and Oregon State — two of the Pac-12’s lowest-drawing groups — performed a ten:30 pm ET ESPN recreation that garnered 1.11 million viewers. In doing so, they narrowly beat a Midday ESPN2 recreation that included Texas (towards West Virginia). It sounds loopy, however the latter, which reached 1 million viewers, went up towards each No. 4 Ohio State vs. no. 7 Michigan State on ABC (5.3 million) and Clemson vs. no. 10 Wake Forest on ESPN (1.6 million), whereas the Solar Devils and Beavers have been the one Energy 5 groups nonetheless in motion.

The Pac-12 may be OK if…

In conclusion, the Pac-12 could also be in higher form than one would have assumed three weeks in the past — offered it will probably preserve the remaining 10 colleges collectively.

The league will not come wherever near the SEC or Huge Ten in its subsequent TV deal, however a consensus has developed lately amongst TV consultants that ESPN will doubtless supply one thing attractive sufficient to calm the waters. (Fox, now that it has the present Huge Ten and USC and UCLA, is probably going out of the image.) Remember, that new deal will doubtless embrace the rights to 30-plus further video games a yr that at the moment air on the soon-to-go-dark Pac-12 Community. ESPN would doubtless place on them on its budding ESPN+ streaming service.

In fact, if at any level the Huge Ten adjustments its thoughts about Oregon and Washington, then the stays of the Pac-12 can be no higher off than the stays of the Huge 12. However that doesn’t look like imminent. Within the meantime, commissioner George Kliavkoff ought to urge these 10 colleges to welcome a few new members (San Diego State would certainly be one), embrace 10:30 pm ET kickoffs and sit up for a brand new period with extra streaming (hey, ESPN+ ) and probably no FS1 or Pac-12 Community dumps.

The cash will not be $80 million a yr just like the Huge Ten’s 2024 projections, however ought to be inside shouting distance of the ACC, which obtained $36.1 million final yr.

Just like the Pac-12, the rebuilt Huge 12 is to be decided. However primarily based on the scores numbers on this story, it is onerous to see why the Pac-12 can be in a weaker place.

(Picture: Jeff Halstead / Getty)