For the first time, the Pac-12's revenues topped $500 million. But the $30.9 million payouts to its schools still lag far behind other Power Five conferences.
The Pac-12 on Thursday announced the basics of its finances for the 2017 fiscal year, a shift in policy by the conference that was hooked to a record revenue haul.
For the first time, Pac-12 annual revenue topped $500 million.
Also for the first time (and not coincidentally, I’m sure): The conference announced the revenue figure in a news release that included a comment from the chair of its CEO Group, USC president Max Nikias.
In the past, Pac-12 revenue figures have been made public only through the mid-May release of its federal tax documents, which include line-item breakdowns of certain revenues and expenses, employee salaries, Pac-12 Networks income, etc.
The 990s for FY17 are not yet available, but the conference opted to release the headline-grabbing revenue number in advance, during its spring meetings in Scottsdale, along with a comment from Nikias:
“The strong financial performance recorded by the Pac-12 Conference provides valuable resources to our universities to support our educational and athletic goals, including opportunities for the over 7,000 student-athletes competing on our Pac-12 campuses.”
The revenue figure — $509 million, which includes Pac-12 Networks revenue — represents a 4 percent increase over FY16, according to the conference.
The news release also provided a detailed account of the increase in revenue over the course of the current Tier One deals with ESPN and Fox.
Most Read Sports Stories
- ESPN brings 'College GameDay' to Pullman, but it's the Cougar fans who put on a show
- ESPN College GameDay in Pullman: Highlights, best signs from a party on the Palouse
- Instant analysis: Three impressions from No. 15 UW Huskies' 27-13 win vs. Colorado
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
- Instant analysis: Three impressions from Washington State's 34-20 win vs. Oregon
Here’s the second paragraph, in full:
“For the four-year period since 2012-2013 when the Pac-12 began its media rights agreements with ESPN & Fox and launched the first and only member-owned conference network, annual member distributions have increased by 63% ($228M to $371M) and annual total revenues have increased by 53% ($334M to $509M total revenues). The compounded annual growth rate for member distributions and total revenues over the four-year period was 13% and 11%, respectively. The ESPN and Fox deals signed in 2012 resulted in more than four times the annual revenue of the prior Pac-12 media deals.”
So … What does it all mean?
The key number isn’t the $509 million in revenue but the $371 million that was distributed to the campuses — the conference’s primary mission, after all, is to serve the schools.
That $371 million breaks down to $30.9 million per school.
That’s an 8 percent year-over-year and a tad higher than the latest Hotline estimates of $30.5 million per school.
How does that compare to other Power Five conferences?
Not all that well.
Two conferences have already reported their FY17 numbers:
The SEC distributed $41 million per school, while the Big 12 sent $34.3 million to its campuses.
The Big Ten and ACC have yet to report, but count on the former being far closer to the SEC than the Pac-12.
There are three additional pieces of context to consider:
1. The Big 12’s per-school payout ($34.3 million) does not include the Tier Three (i.e., local) media rights.
While the conference’s average annual Tier Three revenue is skewed because of The Longhorn Network, the majority of campuses are believed to generate at least $1 million (net) from local media deals.
Add that to the revenue figure, and Big 12 schools are over $35 million for FY17.
The Pac-12 uses a different structure: Because the conference owns the Tier Three rights, that income is included in the reported distribution figure.
2. The Pac-12’s average payout is typically a gross number, in that it does not include the costs associated with buying the Tier Three rights from previous stakeholders (IMG, Learfield, etc).
While the conference handles the transactions, the schools are on the hook for the buyback costs. That amount, withheld from the paychecks sent to the campuses, is not included in the distribution figure the conference reports in its 990s.
For example, an Arizona official told the Hotline last spring that the Wildcats have $1.5 million withheld annually from the buyback of their Tier Three rights.
Factoring that figure into the FY17 numbers just released, Arizona’s net from the conference would be closer to $29 million than $31 million.
That situation doesn’t apply to all schools, however, because the local media contracts were different in amount and duration when the conference pooled its rights.
3. If we subtract the amount sent to the Pac-12 campuses from the revenue figure, we’re left with $138 million in expenses.
That’s a whopper of a total compared to other Power Fives but includes the enormous costs of operating the Pac-12 Networks, which show 850 live events annually across seven feeds.
Exactly how much the Pac12Nets generated in FY17 should be available in the 990s, and campus sources believe approximately $2.7 million of the total distribution figure (per school) is from the networks.
Pac12Nets expenses, long a source of curiosity on the campuses, have never been disclosed.
Note: The Pac-12 is expected to release its tax filings in the coming weeks. The Hotline will report the relevant figures.