How the Big Ten and SEC media deals cleared a path for more Pac-12 broadcasts on ESPN and ABC

The conference has more games on ABC and fewer on ESPN2 this season

As the Pac-12 football season comes to a close, there are still many unanswered questions about the logistics of the stretch-run games.

Will Fox and ESPN use all four six-day options in November, complicating fans’ travel plans?

Will the rivalry games be held at night in cold-weather venues?

How will the networks handle the massive Pacific Northwest doubleheader on November 11, when USC visits Oregon and Utah visits Washington?

One broadcast issue appears to be unambiguous:

The Pac-12 will air more games than usual on ABC and ESPN due to a lapse in broadcast agreements for Disney-owned networks.

The Pac-12 owes the massive exposure opportunity to the Big Ten, which delivered the realignment death blow.

The SEC is also involved, albeit in a less direct manner.

Please allow me to explain.

Three years ago, the SEC agreed to sell its ‘Game of the Week’ package to ESPN, ending a long-term relationship with CBS. The agreement, however, does not go into effect until next season.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten signed a media rights agreement last summer with Fox, CBS, and NBC – but not ESPN – that began this season.

This has resulted in a programming void for ESPN and ABC this fall.

They have yet to acquire the SEC’s No. 1 game, but they have lost 18 Big Ten games (based on last year’s ABC and ESPN programming schedules).

The Pac-12, on the other hand, has not vanished (at least not yet).

The team’s regular-season contract with Disney networks for 22 home games remains unchanged. (The conference title is also ABC.)

And the Pac-12 is jam-packed with elite teams, marquee games, and compelling storylines.

“It’s a huge opportunity presented by forces outside of our control,” a conference source said.

(New media agreements have no bearing on Fox programming windows.)

There has already been a subtle shift in Pac-12 game scheduling:

— Washington-Boise State and Washington State-Wisconsin were two solid but unspectacular non-conference games on ABC. In previous years, they might have landed on ESPN.

— By the end of October, ABC will have aired six Pac-12 home games, one more than the entire season last year. There will also be several additional ABC broadcasts.

— Meanwhile, there have been no Pac-12 home games broadcast on ESPN2 or ESPNU this season, compared to four last year.

In November, premium programming windows on ABC and ESPN should remain available, giving Pac-12 teams and players increased national exposure.

It will not be due to a lack of interest if the conference fails to make the playoffs or win the Heisman Trophy.

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