SBD/May 7, 2013/Media

Follow The Leader: ACC Now Turning Attention To Creation Of TV Network

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Swofford (l) said that teams joining the ACC have enhanced talks with ESPN
Officials with the ACC are "turning their attention to launching their own league-branded network, joining the ranks of the Big Ten, Pac-12 and, now, SEC as conferences that own channels," according to Smith & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. ACC Commissioner John Swofford said, “We’ve got the strongest collegiate TV market in the country. We’re now in a position to accelerate talks with ESPN, which were already ongoing, about a network.” Swofford said the ACC's recent additions of Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, plus the grant of rights, “enhance those discussions." Those moves "caused ESPN to sweeten its rights offer for an all-in media deal that will average" $260M a year through '26-27. Sources said that there are "other contractual elements ... that could push the value higher, especially if the conference starts its own network." Swofford said that the ACC’s "footprint along the Northeast and Southeast U.S. reaches 43 million TV households, more than other conferences." Clemson AD Dan Radakovich said, “With the expansion we’ve had, our demographics, our financials and our projections are much more palatable. The only thing holding us up is time. The SEC Network was three years in the making. Distribution, programming, legal, it all takes time.” ACC sources said that the $260M average "places the 15-team ACC on more level ground with its peer conferences" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/6 issue).

NO CONCERN IN THE COMMONWEALTH: In Virginia, David Teel reported less than "24 hours before ACC presidents unanimously approved the conference’s landmark grant of rights last month," Swofford met with the Univ. of Virginia’s Board of Visitors in Charlottesville. But Swofford yesterday said, "There was never any concern about Virginia’s commitment to the league. I felt that was absolute and strong throughout. President [Teresa] Sullivan asked if I would come up … and visit with the board to better inform them of what this meant and to talk about the vision of the league moving forward.” Teel noted "accompanying Swofford" were ACC Outside Counsel Erik Albright and Wasserman Media Group Senior VP Dean Jordan. Albright explained the "legal jargon, Jordan the television revenue implications" (DAILYPRESS.com, 5/6).

PLAYING CATCH-UP: In Norfolk, Bob Molinaro writes if league TV channels are the "future of major college sports, the ACC is playing catch-up." But having its "own channel would also mean an expanded football TV schedule for the ACC, providing a TV home to every league game." It would "free the Dukes of the world from being banished to computer viewing through ESPN3." However, the market is "already glutted with too many games from too many conferences -- several superior to the ACC." It is "not like Notre Dame football will be making a stop on the ACC channel anytime soon." Molinaro: "Apparently, the business model works for the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, and eventually will for the ACC." Are the TV "households in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Boston that make up much of the 43 million in Swofford's media world as emotionally connected with the ACC as the Raleigh market?" How "deep into its inventory will the ACC have to dig to find programming for its own network?" (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 5/7).

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR: The Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS' Teel writes the last year has been the "most stabilizing and fortyifying in ACC history," but also the "most turbulent." Swofford yesterday said, “It has been an extremely eventful year, and the grant of rights I see as the icing on the cake in terms of those various events, all of which, with the exception of Maryland’s departure, (were) extremely positive.” Swofford said, “Without the grant of rights, I think the channel was a real longshot." He added, "What we will do is continue our analysis that had already started and continue our discussions with ESPN, because anything we do will be with ESPN as our partner." Swofford: "I think we’re very well-positioned. I think we’ve got a terrific grouping of schools and a superb footprint. It’s the strongest collection of basketball programs ever in a single conference, and I think our football has unlimited potential. ... We need to think aggressively, and a part of that may be playing a football game a year overseas and a basketball game or two."

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS: Teel notes the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A Bowl has the "first choice of ACC teams after the Bowl Championship Series, an arrangement that ends after the 2013 season as the Chick-fil-A becomes part of the playoff’s six-game rotation." Though Swofford "declined to discuss specific bowls, that could well mean a reunion with the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Gator Bowl." Swofford: "Even with the Chick-fil-A Bowl not being a guaranteed stop, I think our lineup will be enhanced. And hopefully we’ll be in Atlanta periodically with teams in the football playoff mix." He added, "We may pool bowls and have a little more freedom in putting together matchups that make the most sense for schools and fans and the bowls themselves. ... We’re looking at some things that could add a little more flexibility in order [to] put the most attractive matchups together, and the matchups that make the most sense geographically as well.” Teel reports the ACC is "considering rewarding its football champion, or playoff teams, with a bonus." Swofford said, "There's some discussion about that" (DAILYPRESS.com, 5/7).
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