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Analysis: In new TV deal, Washington State, OSU smartly prioritized exposure over revenue

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

A process that began last summer concluded Tuesday when Washington State and Oregon State announced a media rights agreement for their home games in 2024, when they will compete as a two-team football conference in the aftermath of the Pac-12’s demise.

Eleven of their 13 home games will be shown on The CW, with the other two on either Fox or FS1.

“It’s the best-case scenario,” said a source familiar with the negotiations. “It allows them to stay relevant.”

(No information about the teams’ road games in 2024 was made available; those matchups are controlled by the opponents’ media partners.)

Although the Pac-12 Networks will cease to exist as a media distribution company at the end of June, the conference has retained the Bay Area production facility and will use the infrastructure to produce The CW broadcasts.

Our four-part reaction to the news:

1. The financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal is expected to generate approximately $1 million per game for the Cougars and Beavers.

That’s a paltry amount compared to what the 10 departing universities will receive under the terms of their agreements with the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC. But cash was a secondary consideration to exposure for the ‘Pac-2’ schools.

In that regard, the agreement with The CW and Fox represents a massive upgrade.

Most OSU and WSU games over the past decade were shown on the Pac-12 Networks, which reached roughly 15% of the TV homes nationally.

The CW and Fox are broadcast networks available in 99% of TV homes.

“Given the number of times in recent years they’ve been exiled to the (Pac-12 Networks),” a second industry source said, “it will be good for everyone in the country to have access to all their games.”

2. The CW, which owns the rights to LIV Golf and NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, is steadily adding to its college football inventory after years of standing on the sidelines.

Last summer, the network announced it would broadcast 13 ACC football games annually through the 2026 season via a sublicensing agreement with ESPN, which owns the ACC’s media rights.

The CW is expected to promote its Pac-12 package during ACC broadcasts and use ACC games as a lead-in to WSU and OSU matchups.

Each school will have one game on Fox or FS1: Texas Tech at Washington State, and Oregon at Oregon State.

3. Another key piece for two schools that have played so many night games over the years: The CW kickoff times are favorable.

Two of WSU’s six home games are locked into afternoon windows, while three more could start in daylight. Only one, against San Jose State, is guaranteed to kick off after dinner.

Meanwhile, four of Oregon State’s seven home games have been scheduled for afternoon or early-evening starts; the others could kick in afternoon windows.

“Most of the windows are conducive to ticket sales,” a source said.

4. The windows are also conducive to network studio shows.

During all the uproar over the Pac-12 night games – and the extent to which they were inconvenient for fans – an important element was often overlooked: #Pac12AfterDark had no shelf life.

Because the night games typically ended at 11 p.m. on the West Coast, there were few chances for highlights to appear on the influential ESPN, Fox and CBS studio shows that are produced during peak viewing hours on the East Coast.

By the time football fans in the eastern half of the country rolled out of bed on Sunday morning, the networks had transitioned to NFL coverage.

But The CW has afternoon and prime-time (East Coast) windows available for the ‘Pac-2’ games, giving studio shows numerous opportunities to show highlights of WSU and OSU and discuss whatever narratives develop in Pullman and Corvallis.

For the schools left behind in the realignment game, relevance is far more important than revenue.

The Cougars and Beavers have enough cash to navigate the next few years thanks to a settlement with the departing universities worth in excess of $200 million.

What they need now – what they cannot survive without – is exposure.

The deal with The CW and Fox offers exactly that.