As the Pac-12 continues its search for a lucrative new media rights deal, Amazon is emerging as a notable contender, according to The Mercury News.
The streaming service already holds the rights to most of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games for the next 11 seasons, and it’s been looking to expand its role in the broader football landscape.
One downside of a Pac-12-Amazon deal would be an almost certain increase in tech-related headaches. As The Associated Press reported in its preview of the first Amazon Prime game this season, fans who are used to turning their TV to Fox or ESPN often struggle to use a streaming service instead.
“The main complaint after Prime Video aired a Saturday afternoon game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals in 2020 was that hardly anyone knew how to access it,” the article said.
If Amazon does make a move into college football, the hope is that fans would be used to watching live games on the service by the time the deal starts, The Mercury News reported, noting that the Pac-12’s current deal runs until 2024.
“While Amazon is expecting a dropoff in viewership for ‘Thursday Night Football’ this year as it takes over exclusive rights, a deal with the Pac-12 beginning in 2024 could give the company more time to become a mainstream sports destination,” noted Front Office Sports in its summary of The Mercury News’ coverage.
Although Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff hasn’t specifically addressed the possibility of partnering with Amazon, he did say in July that a deal with a digital media company was “highly likely.”
“The comment was vague enough that it could have been taken as a reference to ESPN’s digital arm. Or to Peacock (NBC) or Paramount+ (CBS). And Kliavkoff hasn’t uttered a public peep about his media strategy since then,” The Mercury News reported.
To be clear, it’s also still possible that the Pac-12 will end up signing with a more traditional broadcast partner. After ESPN missed out on future Big Ten games, it remains in the hunt for a partnership with a major conference.
“The Pac-12 is looking to land a deal that would allow it to grow its per-school payout, which was around $33 million in 2020, per tax filings, compared to $54 million from the Big Ten,” Front Office Sports reported.