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Comcast owed $50 million from Pac-12 Network

The Stanford University football team as it appeared in 2007.
The Stanford University football team as it appeared in 2007. (Photo by Brian Cantoni via Flickr Creative Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Cable giant Comcast is seeking a $50 million refund from the Pac-12 Network that it said was part of a series of overpayments made to the sports network from its launch in 2012 through 2016.

The overpayment was first discovered during a financial audit of the Pac-12 Network in 2017, but executives at the sports media brand didn’t reveal it to the Pac-12 Athletic Conference’s board of directors or Comcast.

The executives, former president Mark Shuken and ex-chief financial officer Brent Willman, were fired by sports commissioner George Kliavkoff last week.

Comcast is one of the largest distributors of the Pac-12 Network family of channels, which includes Pac-12 Arizona (University of Arizona, Arizona State University), Pac-12 Bay Area (University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University), Pac-12 Los Angeles (University of California at Los Angeles, University of Southern California), Pac-12 Mountain (University of Colorado, University of Utah), Pac-12 Oregon (University of Oregon, Oregon State University) and Pac-12 Washington (University of Washington, Washington State University). Other distributors include Dish Network, Cox Cable and streaming services Fubo TV, Vidgo and Sling TV.

In addition to being one of its largest distributors, Comcast also provided technical assistance to the Pac-12 Networks from its Denver-based media center.

The woes involving Comcast adds to the mess at Pac-12 Networks, which is currently embroiled in a civil lawsuit filed against Dish Network over the satellite company’s purported withholding of fees (the lawsuit was moved from federal court to state court in Colorado late last year).

An examination of the network’s annual tax filings by the San Jose Mercury News found that Pac-12 Networks was earning over $100 million in annual revenue every year from 2014 onward, until its 2021 fiscal year, when revenue dropped significantly to $37.7 million.

The Mercury-News said its year-over-year revenue declines starting in 2019 could have been attributed to a loss in carriage agreements on some cable systems, including AT&T U-Verse; the drop from $112.8 million in 2020 to $37.7 million in 2021 was likely due to a cancellation of live sports events connected to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).