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Amazon and the Pac-12: Is a Streaming Deal on the Horizon?

Bob McCullough

Is Amazon about to enter the world of college football broadcasting? The Pac-12 is an obvious candidate for the streaming giant, having been linked with Amazon for a possible new deal that would replace the Pac-12’s current 12-year deals with FOX and ESPN, which run through 2024 at an average annual value of $250 million per season.

Amazon has fully embraced live sports streaming trumpeting the results of its first exclusive “Thursday Night Football” broadcast last week — the company reported a record number of Prime Video signups during the three-hour broadcast window, but failed to provide any concrete numbers — and now there is speculation that securing a Pac-12 deal may be Amazon’s next move.

At this point, though, any deal is just speculation. The Pac-12 announced that it will seek a new rights agreement this past summer when marquee schools USC and UCLA announced that they would be joining the Big Ten in 2024. Last week, the Mercury News reported that Pac-12 commissioner George Kliakov is focused on landing the league a digital partner.

That partner could be ESPN+, Peacock and (NBC), or Paramount+ and (CBS), but Amazon is definitely in the picture as a potential player. ESPN and FOX would have a 30-day negotiating window before the Pac-12 could make a move to another broadcaster, but when that window will begin has yet to be announced.

The Pac-12 is reportedly looking to increase its per-school payout from $33 million in 2020, compared to over $50 million per school in the Big Ten, which recently announced seven-year deals with Fox, CBS, and NBC that are collectively worth over $8 billion, according to reports.

From Amazon’s perspective, landing a Pac-12 streaming deal would be a backdoor way to get into the lucrative college football market, provided the company can fix some of the minor issues that hindered its first “TNF” broadcast.

For West Coast college football fans, it likely means that they’ll need a scorecard to keep track of all the broadcast and streaming players. Before the SEC and the Big Ten gobbled up some of the most prominent football powerhouse schools from the Big 12 and now the Pac-12, viewers had a familiar broadcast alignment; the biggest SEC games were on CBS, the biggest Big Ten games were on FOX, Notre Dame was on NBC, and everything else was essentially on the ESPN family of networks. That has all changed, and will continue to change, as the cost of live sports rights continues to escalate.

But all bets are off if Amazon brings its streaming game into the college football world. Conference realignment has become a fact of life in the college football world, and the new broadcast and streaming deals are already starting to reflect the way that the college sports broadcasting world is being reshaped on the fly. CBSSports' Denis Dodd reported on Wednesday that Amazon is becoming an increasingly important factor in conference expansion and realignment as it weighs getting into the college media rights landscape.

Until a new deal, fans can still watch Pac-12 games on any live TV streaming service that offers Fox and ESPN. You can start watching with a free trial to DIRECTV STREAM.

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