ACC/Big 12 Conference Realignment & the ACC/ESPN TV Deal

The ACC TV Deal Has Brought More Questions Than Answers in Terms of Conference Realignment

The big news yesterday was the ACC‘s new 15-year extension worth about $3.6 billion. After taking out a cut for the league office, that amounts to around $16 million per school (as in divided between 14, not 12 institutions). it’s a nice increase for the current 12 schools (a jump of $5 million per year over the previous contract), but a monumental one for Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who see a $12 million jump (per year!). Not only does that number pay for the exit fees they’ll incur (each will likely have to pay an increased amount from the old $5 million-and-27-month-wait agreement), but it also pays for the type of upgrades both schools will need once they switch leagues.

As many of us started to discuss over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician once the news hit, getting the per-school figure closer to that of the Big 12 would likely mean that all those rumors of Florida State and Clemson defections would be put to rest. Unfortunately, we were dead wrong (as we quickly found out in the comment thread).

The ACC’s deal — unlike that of the other power conferences — also includes tier-three rights. These tier-three rights usually come in the form of local broadcast options (so Time Warner Sports, MSG, SNY, Raycom Sports, etc), team-specific channels (Longhorn Network) or league networks (B1G Network, the Pac-12’s collection of regional content providers), and the web. In the other four power leagues, teams retain these rights, and can in turn, sell off the games (in all sports) not picked up by the main distributor and make an additional profit. Not so in the ACC, however.

Since ESPN owns the ACC’s third-tier rights, the network has the option to sell those off to whomever they want, and make a profit off of it, too. The schools are not paid for these additional games. THIS is where the difference lies in comparison to the other leagues, and if there were defections, it would likely be the root of all evil, so to speak. Consider these reactions to the news (via comment threads and posts):

“The ACC sold their 1st and 2nd tier rights to make sure we stay a third tier conference.” (via Tomahawk Nation)

“ACC is signing everything away, so we make no more money, while the other conferences get more and keep the right to sell those TV rights.” (via Shakin’ the Southland)

These were amongst the most tame reactions, but it’s indicative of the feelings amongst both fanbases overall (as well as outside commentators): By locking up the tier-three rights, you’re limiting growth and earning potential for schools. And by “you,” I’m referring to both commissioner John Swofford and ESPN.

Some additional fuel was added to the fire later on, too. Per Saturday Blitz:

“The Seminoles are in one of the few states – with a population of 19 million – in which a university could turn its third-tier rights into the school’s own television network the way Texas has done in the Lone Star State (population 25.6 million).” Orangebloods’ Chip Brown

The article’s also sure to mention, however, that no one’s interested in carrying the Longhorn Network (unsurprisingly).

This whole TV fiasco’s appeared to kick up additional realignment murmurs as well, beyond the CU, FSU grumblings we’ve been hearing for a couple months now. As they’re being included more and more in superconference scenarios, Maryland‘s suddenly vocal about heading to the Big Ten, while the Notre Dame-to-ACC talk has started up again with a bigger push this time. That’s not to say anything’s in the works, though. There have been zero formal discussions (at least to the web’s knowledge) beyond the general statement that the Irish weren’t thrilled with the Big East‘s current state, and were also being careful about their affiliation given the forthcoming playoff. If Notre Dame finds itself at a disadvantage being an independent, those two factors could create a bit of a perfect storm, landing them right on the ACC’s doorstep. Also helping out: the Irish have stated they want no part of being another “midwest football school” and would prefer to be around institutions similar to itself. Lucky for us, we offer both of these opportunities, but again, nothing’s set in stone.

So what do you think? Did the ACC get a bad deal here, and if so, is it pushing FSU and Clemson out the door? Could the ACC have realistically gotten more from ESPN, or perhaps a new partner instead? If Notre Dame comes on board, can they continue to command the $15 million per-year rate they’re currently getting from NBC? And how would/could that impact another reworked ACC TV deal? And then there’s revenue sharing. Is equal the answer, or could unequal revenue sharing have some benefits — or a maybe a hybrid model, based on postseason appearances and performance?

All we know is that there’s still a lot to uncover in these upcoming days, weeks and months.

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2 thoughts on “ACC/Big 12 Conference Realignment & the ACC/ESPN TV Deal

  1. I think the ACC got shafted. I know the conference doesn’t get good national buzz, but it’s actually a fairly strong commodity. See http://frankthetank.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/sports-data-from-nielsen-tv-viewership-for-college-conferences-and-pro-sports-social-media-buzz/ Third in football viewership and second in basketball, but fifth in TV money? Swofford and crew must be terrible negotiators. At least the contract can be renegotiated every four years–with Florida State and Clemson trending up, maybe we’ll look a little better in 2016.

    • I remember that piece. Definitely agree, there’s been some money left on the table at this point. Hadn’t seen details about the contract renegotiation, though. If that’s the case, then hopefully a few berths in the “football final four” will give us a boost in funds. While FSU and Clemson’s success directly hurts SU (same division), I know their performance also brings in more money for the league.

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