Released ESPN SEC Network details provide blueprint for possible ACC Network.

acc_logoMost of us knew already that an SEC Network backed by ESPN was coming in the fall of 2014. That was common knowledge. What we didn’t know exactly were the details of the network. Recently there was a release by the SportsBusinessDaily that went into the specifics on the joint venture by the SEC and ESPN.  Currently ESPN and ACC are assessing the viability of such an ACC network.  CBSSportsline had this to say on the topic in their recent article Notre Dame grows ACC revenue.

“The ACC is currently considering a 24-hour sports channel with ESPN, which is gathering information and will return to the league with an assessment. If ESPN makes an offer the ACC likes, plans for a channel might commence. The league is evaluating whether a channel makes the most business sense.”

If ESPN comes back with a positive assessment, I think it would it be a significant step forward for the conference. Think about the possible repercussions should ESPN not support a network… “You have a nice a conference but there’s not enough value in it for us to make another investment.” Ouch.

The great misconception is that the Big 10 or SEC controls the future of college athletics. That is not true. It is ESPN. Like last year when the ACC made sure it was an equal partner at the larger playoff table, this year the conference must prove it is a valuable commodity to ESPN. I think that they will do this; they must,  because the alternative would leave a lot of question marks about future revenue sources.

As I said back January the SEC/ESPN model will likely be the one ACC follow as well. I discussed how difficult it might be for ACC to start a network then. Now I have the context of new details and in my initial assessment I wasn’t that far off. With that said let’s go back to the SportsBusinessDaily article. Some interesting statements are made.

“The conference channel cleared its biggest obstacle in recent weeks when it reacquired the third-tier TV rights from IMG College, Learfield Sports and CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, the three rights holders that work with the conference’s 14 schools. Those third-tier TV rights represent one football game, eight men’s basketball games, baseball, women’s basketball and all other nonrevenue sports that are not picked up by ESPN or a syndicated partner…”

“Those live games will move to ESPN for the conference channel, which is an important development because it means that ESPN will control the entire inventory of SEC football games, with the exception of CBS’s single game each week. That gives ESPN a lot of flexibility to use specific games in markets where it’s having trouble gaining distribution”

So now all of the SEC’s third tier TV rights belong to the ESPN. This was called the biggest obstacle for the SEC and ESPN… Um, ESPN already owns the 3rd tier rights for the ACC for football and men’s basketball. Scratch that off the list as a major obstacle for the ACC and ESPN. Yes there some regional deals in particular the Olympic sports outside football and basketball for the ACC to work out, but this will be far less complicated.

Another statement…

“The conference also gained control of its digital and sponsorship rights that will be rolled over to ESPN as well. That will enable ESPN to have TV, digital and sponsorship rights for the conference under one umbrella. Being able to package TV and digital advertising in corporate sponsorship deals is considered a vital revenue component, and neither the conference nor ESPN wanted multiple partners selling those rights in the marketplace.”

The ACC’s highly successful ACC Digital Network is college athletics leading online content provider. I wrote about this 2 weeks ago. ESPN would want this under one umbrella like the SEC, but wait this already in essence exists. Look at the statement  from the RaycomSports site… 

Raycom, in 2011 enters into a sublicense arrangement with ESPN where Raycom continues through 2023 to be the national syndicator of “ACC football and basketball, holder of regional cable rights, administration of ACC Properties and management of all ACC digital platforms including operation of theacc.com, the official conference web site.

The agreement already appears to exist. Raycom is in a subliscensing agreement with ESPN. Will there be some modification to this deal? Maybe, but it certainly doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. I am not sure if ESPN would negotiate to get those rights back or if Raycom remains in the picture. My expectation is Raycom will continue to manage the Digital Aspect, but that ESPN would have to re-obtain the syndicated games. Of course maybe ESPN lets Raycom become part of the ACC Channel somehow as well. They are based in Charlotte, NC, the same likely location as the SEC Network. How this is handled is probably the portion I’m least sure of, though it hardly seems like a show stopper. Heck everything Raycom does now is branded as the ACC Network already…

So basically the two biggest obstacles to the SEC network, are not nearly as large of issues for the ACC. The more I analyze this situation  the more I come to the conclusion that an ACC Network is not only possible, but in general it looks relatively straight forward to get done. The key and these are the details I’m not privy to is how much money can the darn thing make? Isn’t that always the question?

I find it extremely hard to believe that a conference that stretches along the entirety of the East Coast along with college sports hottest university in Louisville and college sports biggest name brand in Notre Dame doesn’t have some value. With the SEC Network about to be finalized, I would expect ESPN’s assessment for the ACC in the coming months.

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2 pings

  1. Hokie Mark says:

    Good stuff! Maybe we will learn more on Tuesday?

    1. Jfann says:

      Thanks! What is Tuesday though? I may have missed something…

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