ESPN needs to be a better partner to the ACC, after Big 10 rights deal revealed.


Let’s just come out say it. Jim Delany is a genius when it comes to handling the Big 10’s media rights. More than 10 years ago, his vision led to the Big Ten Network. Now he’s managed to secure a deal with Fox that could be worth up $250 Million a year for 6 years for just half of the Big 10’s media rights that were up for grabs.  Well respected College Football writer @DanWolken details how Delany one-upped his nearest competitor the SEC and the rest of the Power 5. 

And the best part? If it’s a six-year deal, as Ourand reported, the Big Ten’s media rights will come up for bid again (and maybe again prior to that) before ESPN’s 20-year agreement with the SEC expires in 2034.

That’s astronomical money and will further widen the gap between the Big Ten, the SEC (which distributed $31.2 million per school last year) and everyone else. For all the talk about the Power 5 conferences, it’s a really a Power 2

Heck I’m prepared to call it the Power 1 when it comes to rights revenue. I doubt Big 10 gets $250 Million for the second half of their rights, but who knows. This is an ACCcentric blog though, and we want to know what this means for the ACC.

First of all ESPN needs to be a better partner here to the ACC. The Pac 12, Big 10, and Big 12 all have their rights split to a varying degree with Fox, conference networks, and other third-tier TV deals.

Unless the ESPN wishes to show Roller Derby again, it is running out of collegiate content to show. Even if they make a deal with the Big 10 to gain the other half of the media rights, judging from the Big 10’s initial Fox agreement here, it’s only going to be a short term deal. The Big 10 rights are up for bidding again. People may be cutting the cord, but they will be watching their sports someway, and ESPN could lose just about all rights to show Big 10 sports. It could happen. SEC Football is big, but it isn’t that big and it won’t sustain ESPN if they are struggling for content in a few years when the ACC contract ends. Certainly the ill-fated Longhorn Network isn’t going to help ESPN’s bottom line much either.

ESPN must look at the ACC as the valuable conference it is and significantly increase the payout to the ACC for their TV rights either in a yearly increase or a network.

In addition as an ESPN property it is time ESPN improves exposure of ACC sports. When there is more SEC Women’s Softball games on ESPNU and ESPN2  than ACC Baseball then that’s a problem I would say for the ACC.

When the Clemson Tigers spring game, a team than finished #2 in the country is relegated to ESPN3 that’s a problem. Mississippi State was on ESPNU. Yes SEC Football is better than ACC Football, but I’m not sure about the Bulldogs getting better coverage than the Tigers.

5-7 Missouri had one after 6 PM Saturday conference starts on ESPN and ESPN2 last year. Clemson had zero, and Florida State had just two, as we include ABC as well.

Obviously ACC Basketball as the nation’s #1 conference, should dominate ESPN’s coverage. During conference tourney week that was the case, but I heard enough about LSU’s Ben Simmons to last a lifetime. Astonishing that a team that didn’t make the NCAAs had 1 more (7-6) 6 PM or later conference starts on ESPN/ESPN2 as top 10 ranked Virginia.

ESPN was out maneuvered by Fox and lost significant portions of Big 12, Big 10, and Pac 12 sports in recent years. It’s time ESPN rewarded the ACC for it’s long term commitment to the network, it’s improved performance athletically, and the fact ESPN can’t afford to lose another property down the road.

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  1. Hokie Mark says:

    Obviously ESPN won’t lose the entire ACC – it can’t, it’s under contract – but one of 2 things could happen: (1) individual ACC teams could decide that it’s worth the penalty to jump to the Big Ten, or (2) ACC sports could die of starvation, making that content worthless to ESPN. They can avoid both problems by paying the ACC more money.

  2. KnoxHokie says:

    The ACC needs to get a team of lawyers to start researching how ESPN is not living up to its contract when it relegates ACC sports programming to second rate status. The contract of ESPN of the ACC and its sub-arrangements should be opened up to the public to see how on earth ESPN can continue to stick it to the ACC. At this point, ESPN is not a good partner and seemingly has little interest in seeing the ACC succeed. Why is Commissioner Swafford allowing the outrageous bias of the ESPN in showing SEC on its regular channel over the ACC!

  3. Jfann says:

    WHen you breakdown how the ACC is covered is ESPN really a good partner? Other than the coverage of the ACC Basketball Tournament, I do question where is the benefit compared to how the SEC for example is treated.

    A slew of ESPN3 games doesn’t help. People still watch the majority of their sports on TV. Yes Digital will be the wave of the future, but at the moment it isn’t helping the ACC.

    Now I don’t envision teams jumping conferences, because at the moment only the Big 10 and SEC look really stable. If the Big 10 and SEC get in an arms race none of the other 3 conferences is truly safe.

    I just hope this motivates Swofford to pressure ESPN into doing something that helps the ACC.

  4. Jim says:

    In examining the monetizing of each conference, I am interested in getting an opinion.

    As a WVU fan we are enjoying our Big 12 membership and the high-profile conference games it brings.

    Still, many fans wish we had landed instead in the ACC. The ACC clearly had no interest in WVU and instead opted for schools like BC.

    As you are an ACC expert of sorts and with the discussion centered on the value of the conference to the networks my question is this:
    Would the ACC, with the ability to count such rivalries as Pitt-WVU, VT-WVU as well as valuable matchups with FSU and Clemson on FB side, and regional matchup galore, would the ACC not be more valuable with WVU than they are without in your opinion? Thanks

  5. Jfann says:

    I think at one time the ACC right or wrong may have had some issue with the academic profile of West Virginia.

    In my opinion if West Virginia became available now, they would be on the short list of candidates because of geography, and quality football and basketball solid fanbase.

    The natural rivalries plus history with many current ACC schools as you say would be good too.

    I feel like WVU would be a good fit – just leave some of the WVU bloggers that ripped the ACC in 2012 and 2013 at home. 🙂

    1. Jim says:

      Jfann –

      I think the academic thing had little to do with WVU not being invited. History and downright dislike and perhaps even competitive fear had more to do with it imo. For decades before, travel was the reason given.

      When Louisville was invited the academic excuse was out the window. And of course, if we remove all hypocrisy, UNC certainly has some “academic profile” issues as well.

      I love the current Big 12 and as a result of the ACC snub, don’t care much for that conference.

      My original thought was that both WVU and the ACC would be better off if the league had invited however.

  6. Jfann says:

    Certainly agree that any conference that uses the academic crutch these days is being hypocritical….

    In hindsight…

    I do think West Virginia would have made a lot of sense to the ACC if they had been one of the teams in invited since realignment got going early in the 2000s.

    Especially when the ACC’s football product was struggling so much for most of the 2000s through 2011.

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