Report: Pac-12 met with Apple to see if tech giant would buy an equity stake

Nick Bromberg
PAC-12 logo during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
The Pac-12 is still looking for investors. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

The Pac-12’s search for investors has included Apple.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott met with Eddy Cue, the head of services for the tech giant to see if Apple would be interested in investing in the conference. A deal would include Pac-12 games on Apple TV+, the streaming service launched on Nov. 1.

From the WSJ:

More recently, Mr. Cue met with Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott about the conference’s effort to sell an equity stake in its media rights package, valued at up to $5 billion, that includes the Pac-12 Networks and all marquee football, basketball and live sports programming that is fully available in 2024, according to people familiar with the discussions. The conference includes the University of Southern California, the University of Oregon and Stanford University.

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 of the conference’s best programming, it would need to show some of those games on traditional broadcast TV to satisfy fans.

The Pac-12 currently has contracts for its best football games to be on Fox and ESPN while the Pac-12 Network has rights to other games. The Pac-12 Network has struggled for distribution ever since it was launched. Those struggles have led to the Pac-12 looking for investors because the revenue streams that teams in the conference anticipated have never materialized.

Investor idea became public in 2018

The Pac-12’s idea to get investors was revealed by the Oregonian in December of 2018. The conference pitched its member schools on a plan that would give investors a 10 percent stake in the conference and its media rights for a $500 million investment.

That $500 million figure turned into $750 million in a March report by SportsBusiness Daily.

No one — that we know of, anyway — has signed up to be an investor in the conference, a potential sign that the idea isn’t getting much traction at places other than Apple.

Apple getting sports content for its $5 monthly service would position itself similarly to ESPN+, which broadcasts thousands of collegiate sporting events across the country on its subscription streaming service.

But paying $5 for some Pac-12 games and Apple’s non-sports content wouldn’t seem like a very good deal for a sports fan compared to the $5 a month for ESPN+ that includes far, far, far more sporting events. Especially if few of the conference’s marquee events appeared on Apple’s service.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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