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I've still got questions, but the Pac-12 is pushing the NIL envelope in an important way

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

On Thursday, the Pac-12 announced an especially interesting new NIL imitative. The conference is partnering with Opendorse, Twitter, and a tech company called Tempus Ex to monetize their highlights.

Here's the gist of the program, as I understand it. Tempus Ex provides the technical tools to produce individual highlight packages for Pac-12 athletes, thanks to their ability to record the field of play from numerous angles. The athletes can then tweet those highlights, Twitter sticks in some preroll ads for monetization, and Opendorse facilitates payments to the athletes.

At launch, the initiative will include all Pac-12 football and basketball players. Athletes can reportedly earn $1,250 for participating in the program, with potentially more, depending on the performance of the videos. I believe that the $1,250 is the minimum payment for the campaign, but will update this newsletter if this gets clarified.

On the surface, this appears to be a pretty common deal that publishers and content creators strike up with various platforms. A huge platform (Twitter, Facebook, Substack, YouTube, etc), pays entities to produce particular kinds of content that live on the platform, which the company tries to monetize. If the platform wants to experiment with a different kind of content, it's common for them to "overpay" creators at launch. Otherwise, it's hard to attract enough inventory.

So if Twitter was trying to grow its ability to sell ads against video clips, well, they need lots more video clips that people will want to watch. This particular NIL package appears to be an affordable way to do that. They generate lots of positive PR, they get around ESPN/Fox DCMA ownership rights (Tempus Ex creates the highlight footage, not ESPN broadcast trucks), and they get unique video inventory to sell.

The problem is, platforms don't overpay forever. Just ask any digital news journalist who was around for the Facebook "pivot to video" era (like for example, me). If the market doesn't materialize quickly enough, the payments stop and the rug gets pulled.

I'd be a little nervous about the ability of Pac-12 athletes to deliver enough video eyeballs to make this worth it, long-term, for all of the parties. It's easy to forget that the preferred social networks for most college athletes are Instagram and TikTok, not Twitter. I was looking around Opendorse myself, and only a handful of current Pac-12 football players have Twitter followings over 10K (and some of those, like Arizona State's Emory Jones, transferred in from outside of the Pac-12), which will make it harder to drive enough video views to satisfy advertisers.

But hey, that's a future problem. And maybe this particular partnership helps organically grow the Twitter audience of those athletes over time, helping the effectiveness of the program grow. Even if it doesn't, $1,250 is a lot of money! That's more money than most Pac-12 football players will make in a single deal.

What makes this deal really interesting to me is how it shifts the Overton Window about what's possible in NIL

Typically, conferences haven't gotten involved too much in individual athlete NIL operations. They might recommend vendors to member schools or share best practices, and maybe everybody goes in on Opendorse or INFLCR, but individual schools (or teams) have taken far more of a leadership role, not conference offices. The Pac-12 working to get this done could, where state laws allow it, provide a template for how other leagues, even mid-majors, can enter into partnerships that improve NIL opportunities at the campus level.

Those additional resources are important because one of the really challenging aspects to NIL value generation for most athletes is that, in practice, it becomes a second job, requiring a completely different skillset.

Athletic performance doesn't automatically lead to large social media followings or direct marketability. An excellent communicator who is a backup wideout in D-III can make lots of NIL money, and a starting ACC right guard who only logs into Instagram three times a month might not make any. Athletes have limited time, resources and interest in building the supporting infrastructure to take advantage of the most NIL opportunities.

This deal cuts out a lot of those middlemen. Every athlete generates highlight footage from playing their sport. Outside of the relatively simple tasks of setting up a Twitter account, accepting the Opendorse contract, and tweeting a few times, they'll have access to the deal, even if they only have 15 followers.

It's not revenue sharing by any means, but it's one of the few big deals that makes it easy for many athletes to earn real money without having to make a bunch of phone calls or mine their identity for social media currency.

That feels like something worth celebrating, even if the long-term Twitter video math doesn't end up working out forever.

Earlier this week, Bryan and I recorded another Going For Two, our first together in several weeks. We dug into Bryan's big takeaways from talking to ADs at Pac-12 Media Days, and what else I learned from the Big Ten's first ever Volleyball Media Days event. We chat a bit about the Big Ten's new upcoming TV deal, our interest in talking about actual football games, and much more:

If video isn't your thing, you can always listen to Going For Two, completely for free, by subscribing anywhere you get podcasts.

If you've done that, you should also have a bonus episode in your downloads right now, as Bryan and I kick off our preview series by chatting with our buddy Shehan Jeyarajah. We talk about how many games we think Kansas will win, who will be in this conference in a few seasons, why you should watch some Kansas State football games next season, and oh yeah, a few questions about Texas football.

We'll have other conference previews coming over the next several days, so keep refreshing that feed!

Here's what else we published this week:

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I've still got questions, but the Pac-12 is pushing the NIL envelope in an important way

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