10/14/19: Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott discusses media rights, Pay for Play and college athletics

 

Monday October 14, 2019
Amid new laws targeting student athletes, upcoming media rights bidding, and changing media consumption patterns, college athletics once again faces new questions about the direction of its future and the relationship between universities and their athletes. Cynopsis Sports asked Larry Scott, Commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, about the conference’s approach and positioning on some of the issues, as well as the organization’s deepening ties with the city of Las Vegas.
 
Scott on Las Vegas: Creating the best possible experience for our student-athletes and our fans is the most important priority for our Pac-12 Championships.  The quality of the city, the venue and our partners are all critical elements in creating a best-in-class sporting and entertainment experience.  Las Vegas delivers unmatched entertainment options and is a destination city that is easy to reach from all of our Pac-12 markets and that our fans really enjoy.  For our men’s and women’s Pac-12 basketball tournaments, the T-Mobile Arena and Mandalay Bay Events Center are fantastic venues, and our partners in MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Events and Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Center are leaders in delivering incredible experiences for sporting event attendees.  For all of these reasons, the past few years in Las Vegas have set numerous attendance records for our men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and have made extending through 2022 for each an easy decision.
 
With our previously announced decision to bring our Pac-12 Football Championship to Las Vegas and the brand new Allegiant Stadium for 2020 and 2021, Las Vegas has truly become a home away from home for some of our most storied season-ending events.
 
On California’s “Fair Pay to Play Act”: I understand this is a difficult and important issue, and one that people disagree about passionately. I have been in close consultation with our university leaders and athletic directors, who share a commitment to student-athlete welfare that has made our Conference a leader in that area for many years. And as a former student-athlete myself, I firmly believe people on all sides of this debate are trying to do the right thing for student-athletes. The NCAA has been exploring whether change is possible in this area, and the Pac-12 is represented in that group. We expect a report from them later this month and while I don’t know what will be in it, I expect it will become an important piece of the overall national discussion on NIL.  And we are actively working with our members and peers to explore possible solutions to the concerns that we have expressed about the new California law – solutions that would support our student-athletes while staying true to the college model in which education is a paramount part of the equation.
 
On his view of the bill’s impact: One thing is clear: This issue simply cannot be addressed on a state-by-state basis. I think we all know that just can’t work. In fact, it’s pretty clear from their remarks in the media that even many of the legislators who passed this California bill know that, and their intent was to send a message to the NCAA that they want change. I understand that. But the bill’s flaws go even deeper. Rather than a narrowly and carefully tailored effort to address this issue, it would effectively create a free-for-all in which large payments to a relative handful of star athletes from boosters and others could be thinly disguised as payment for the use of their name, image and likeness. In no time, recruitment in certain sports would become a cash-driven competition with essentially no limits on pay-to-play.
 
It was in that context that I made my previous remarks about the bill’s likely impact on women’s sports. With massive amounts of dollars redirected to paying people to play revenue sports like football and basketball, much less money would be available for other sports, and women’s and Olympic sports that are already vulnerable financially would likely bear the brunt of it. Our conference prides itself on the breadth of sports our schools offer for both men and women. It is my duty to protect the futures of those young people, who form the majority of our Pac-12 student-athletes, and for whom the current system provides scholarships, top coaching and facilities, and an exceptional education.
 
I think this is a point that bears emphasis – the current college model, for 98 to 99 out of 100 student-athletes, provides incredibly valuable benefits through a free education and access to best coaching, training and nutrition that allows them to graduate debt-free and better prepared for a successful professional career.  And for that other 1-2%, I believe they can and should have options, including a pathway directly to the pros if the college education system is not of interest.
 
In the coming weeks and months, after the NCAA issues its report, there will be more opportunity to discuss in detail the many issues associated with compensation for name, image, and likeness, and the unintended consequences that would likely flow from permitting it. But for now, I just want to emphasize that while the new California law is certainly not the answer, as I said we are actively working with our members and peers to explore possible solutions that would support our student-athletes.
 
On media strategy: The process of exploring potential strategic media partners has generated great interest and attractive bids and valuations from a diverse group of some of the most respected media and technology companies investing in media rights.  The Pac-12 continues to explore options that could provide important strategic value to our members, having recently made the decision to focus our conversations on those potential partners who we believe could add the most strategic value to our media rights and content.  Whether or not we ultimately decide to move forward with a partner at this time or wait until our rights come up in 2024, we are optimistic about our future.  This optimism stems from the interest displayed as we engaged in the process of exploring possibilities and because of the dynamic media rights environment, where many premium sports rights continue to rise in value and many new technology companies continue to enter.
 
PROGRAMMING

FOX Sports reeled in 6.4 million viewers across its platforms for the Yankees’ win over the Astros in Saturday’s ALCS matchup, with nearly 6.1 viewers on FOX alone. Season-to-date, the company’s coverage of the 2019 MLS Postseason is averaging 3,155,000 viewers, for an uptick of 14% over last year’s postseason numbers.
 
Thursday Night Football continued to deliver for FOX, as last week’s game saw the Patriots’ win over the Giants seen by an average audience of 16.8 million across all platforms, including FOX, NFL Network, FOX Deportes, NFL digital, FOX Sports digital, Amazon Prime Video, Twitch and Yahoo Sports. That number is up 13% versus the 2018 11-game FOX Thursday Night Football average (14.9 million) and up 9% versus last year’s Week 6 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. Season-to-date, the Thursday Night Football tri-cast is averaging 16.8 million viewers, up 14%.
 
FOX Sports also reports that this year’s Red River Showdown saw Oklahoma’s win over Texas reel in a 4.3 metered market rating, according to Nielsen, to rank as the top-rated college football game on Saturday. That score also marks FOX’s best metered market number this season.
 
Meanwhile, CBS Sports announced its SEC on CBS football game for Oct. 19 at 3:30p, picking up LSU/Mississippi State. Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and reporter Jamie Erdahl will call the contest from Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.
 
As a result of weather issues on Sunday, NASCAR postponed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway until today, where it will run at 2p on NBCSN. Rick Allen will call the action alongside Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Steve Letarte will provide commentary from the Peacock Pit Box.
 
IMPACT Wrestling announced that its flagship weekly two-hour program IMPACT! will move to Tuesday nights at 8p on Fight Network in Canada and on its international feed, including Portugal and Greece, starting on Oct. 22. IMPACT! will also air on GameTV in Canada on Saturdays at 7p.
 
Awarding young professionals who have proven to be standout performers and emerging leaders. As a finalist, you’ll receive:
Networking opportunities at a reception in February 2020 in NYC
Great Word of Mouth:  Elevate your organization’s reputation and be in good company (view last year’s honorees, here ).
Earned Publicity with editorial coverage on cynopsis.com, dedicated emails and in our bustling social media networks.
 
SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

MLS’ Los Angeles Football Club cemented a multi-year partnership with Target in a deal that marks the first league team to sign a sleeve sponsorship deal. The partnership kicks in on Jan. 2020 and will see Target’s bullseye logo displayed on the sleeve of the North American soccer team’s jerseys, joining primary shirt sponsor YouTube TV on the club’s playing kits.
 
espnW unveiled its roster of sponsors for the 10th annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit presented by Toyota. Toyota returns for the seventh year as presenting sponsor. First-time sponsors New Balance and Rothy’s join a lineup that includes returning sponsors Gatorade, Wells Fargo, Procter & Gamble and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The gathering will take place Oct. 21-23 at The Resort at Pelican Hill, in Newport Beach,
 
DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

UFC and IMG ARENA, a sports betting service and content hub, are launching UFC Event Centre, a new sports betting product that will offer a slate of live betting opportunities during each fight of every UFC event. Both the UFC Event Centre and UFC’s official data feed will be made available globally through licensed partnerships with sportsbooks and gaming operators. Features include: live in-round betting for every UFC event globally; official data delivery in less than two seconds; immediate bet settlement; live betting data points; live statistics; fighter/event details and 3d visualizations of live UFC action.
 
Sportradar acquired sports betting and gaming omnichannel platform business Optima. The move as made to extend Sportradar’s current betting services portfolio to become a full service B2B data, betting, trading and player management platform business. The company will now offer the entire betting and gaming value chain in both established and emerging markets as they regulate.
 
ESPORTS

Axe is the latest brand to enter the world of League of Legends, locking in a multi-year deal with Riot Games to serve as the official men’s grooming partner of League of Legends’ global events: Mid-Season Invitational, World Championship, and All-Star Event. The partnership will launch immediately at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship with a fully integrated campaign, created by AXE with 72andSunny Amsterdam. “We are delighted to partner with Unilever’s AXE on League of Legends’ most prestigious esports events,” said Naz Aletaha, Head of Global Esports Partnerships and Business Development for Riot Games. “AXE is a brand that celebrates individuality, inspires confidence, and shares our passion for esports. That perspective, combined with their expertise in activating around major traditional and emerging sports, is sure to enhance our fans’ experience.”  
 
Meanwhile, G2 Esports unveiled a partnership with Domino’s revolving around the League of Legends World Championship in Europe. The deal with the German arm of the chain will include a viewing party hosted at G2 Esports’ headquarters on Oct. 18, with a campaign anchored by the slogan ‘#G2 Delivers.’ Domino’s and G2 will provide fans pizza, vouchers, contests and the chance to participate in a scavenger hunt that will reward the winner with a special G2 experience. This unique opportunity is geared towards local Berlin fans and is another step in G2’s mission to appreciate and give back to its local #G2ARMY.
 
Team Liquid is deepening its partnership with German software corporation SAP, which will now include the team’s League of Legends roster. SAP will work with Team Liquid at the League of Legends World Championship where Team Liquid will leverage SAP’s data knowledge by analyzing performances based on in-game data.
 
INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

NBC Sports Group’s SportsEngine Inc. promoted Brett MacKinnon to SVP of Sales, and Jody Vogelaar to SVP of Marketing and Content. In his new role as Sr. VP of Sales, MacKinnon will oversee inside and enterprise sales, advertising and sponsorship sales and business development for all of SportsEngine’s competition and sports management platforms. Vogelaar will lead customer marketing and engagement efforts, creative services, and the company’s youth sports content strategy.
 
THE MAIN EVENT

Cardinals/Nationals on TBS at 7:30p.
A Cynopsis Message From SPORTS INNOVATION

SPORTS INNOVATION CONFERENCE 
THE EPICENTER OF SPORTS AND TECH
 
NOVEMBER 6, 2019 • CITIZENS BANK PARK, PHILADELPHIA
 
Join Ryan Howard, David Stern, Ralph Sampson, Ken Shropshire, and many more industry thought leaders focused on sports technology, esports, and sports betting – industries where innovation is moving at an accelerated pace.
 
ON THIS DAY in 1979
Wayne Gretzky scores his first NHL goal.
 
In the Know
Which former Pac-12 men’s basketball player still holds the conference record for career scoring? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your company and city).
 
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
The NFL’s NY Giants originally called which venue home?  Answer:
Polo Grounds. Kudos: Phyllis McQuillan-MSG Networks/NY; Tori Gallarello-Alcock-Little Roosters, Inc./NY; Bob Dudelson-Leverage Agency/NY; Greg Vorvolakos-Pathway-Omnicom Media Group/NY; David Haney-Bosack & Co./Pottsville; Wayne “World B” Otto-Pro-Am Sports/Boone; Michael Goodman-Radio One/Atlanta; Bill Graff-beIN SPORTS/Miami; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; John Kukla-KDFW/KDFI/Dallas; Brad Stern/Carbondale; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Mindi Sue Black-black & blue star/Santa Monica

Later~~Chris
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