Pac-12 hires executive to turn what remains of Pac-12 Networks into a profit source for next era

The Pac-12 Networks will broadcast their final live event later this month and cease to exist as a media distribution company at the end of June. But the engineers, cutting-edge technology and production facility will remain in place under a new executive.

The conference has appointed Michael Molinari the senior vice president for business development and studio operations for Pac-12 Enterprises.

Essentially, he’s the general manager of content production, charged with turning what remains into a source of profit and leverage — everything the Pac-12 Networks were not.

“Michael brings a wealth of knowledge and high level of respect from across the sports broadcasting landscape to lead our new production services business with Pac-12 Enterprises,” commissioner Teresa Gould said in a statement released early Wednesday morning.

“We are excited for his leadership in bringing these offerings to market and helping us realize our vision for this extraordinary facility.”

First question: What are Pac-12 Enterprises?

Simply put, it’s the conference’s media production arm — the guts of the broader operation that was the Pac-12 Networks — and it’s located in a massive office in a business park in San Ramon, California.

Molinari knows the facility and the engineers well, having served as the Pac-12 Networks’ lead producer for football and men’s basketball broadcasts for more than a decade. (His previous stops include ESPN and the Big Ten Network.)

Molinari and Gould are planning to take the production services “external” and identify “new and prospective clients to utilize (the) full suite of production capabilities,” according to the conference.

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The production facility includes:

— More than 2,000 square feet of “acoustically-tuned stage space and insert studios”

— Nine broadcast control rooms

— The infrastructure and connectivity “to produce live events anywhere in the world”

The facility will produce two buckets of live events for Washington State and Oregon State in the upcoming competition year.

Earlier this week, the ‘Pac-2’ schools announced a media rights agreement with the CW and Fox to broadcast their 13 home football games. Fox has its own production team, but the CW does not. Pac-12 Enterprises will handle production for those 11 games.

The second bucket encompasses everything else.

For the next two years, the Cougars and Beavers will be affiliate members of the West Coast Conference in basketball and other Olympic sports.

The WCC has an exclusive agreement with ESPN+ to broadcast more than 900 live events.

Pac-12 Enterprises will handle the task for the Cougars and Beavers.

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But there’s room for more business, and that’s where Molinari comes in.

He’ll attempt to not only find clients — Apple and Amazon, for example, outsource production of their live sports broadcasts — but also turn Pac-12 Enterprises into a piece of leverage for the next round of realignment.

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If WSU and OSU decide to rebuild the conference in time for the 2026 football season, they will need a media rights agreement.

That agreement will include a streaming component (ESPN+, Amazon, Apple, etc.), but building on-campus production facilities to meet digital media demands is a costly undertaking.

The Pac-12’s infrastructure would limit the scope of any campus build-out, potentially making the conference more attractive to both new members and new media partners.

It’s bold thinking, for sure, and it might become a lost cause. Nobody knows what options will exist for Washington State and Oregon State in 12 or 18 months.

But they need to be ready, and Pac-12 Enterprises is an important piece of the preparation.

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