ACC Hopes Launch Of New Network Keeps Conference Competitive
The ACC Network launches tonight as ESPN’s "ninth and perhaps final" cable channel in a "media environment in which streaming is the acknowledged future (and increasingly the present)," according to Kevin Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. The launch "demonstrates the continued relevance of television as the largest platform for mass consumption of sports, a reminder that the one-two punch" of subscription fees and ad dollars "remains formidable." ESPN programming execs will have to "balance competing priorities." The ACC Net will "show about 450 live events in its first year, largely the non-marquee football and basketball matchups." But ESPN also has a deal to pay the ACC $240M annually for its "top tier media rights for almost the next two decades." For that to be "worthwhile, ESPN needs to put the very best football games on ABC or ESPN, where they will attract the largest audiences." ACC Commissioner John Swofford indicated that the conference "wants that, too." He said, "The ACC Network needs and will have marquee games as well, in order to keep it something that people desire" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/22). In Greensboro, Ed Hardin writes the ACC Net is going to be an "interesting venture for the league, a leap of faith, really." There is "no risk in the belief that ACC fans will watch." But the "unknown is in how much they will watch." It is "no secret that basketball is far and away the strongest product." But even "within basketball, there’s no guarantee that new fans will suddenly sprout in new places" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 8/22).
CASH COW: In Raleigh, Andrew Carter noted the ACC last year distributed an average of $29.5M to "each member school that received a full share of revenue." During the past five years, the conference has "doubled its overall revenue" -- from $232.5M to 464.7M -- but "even that hasn’t allowed it to keep pace with the Big Ten and the SEC." The purpose of the ACC Net is to "generate money, and to keep the conference’s schools financially competitive with its rivals in other conferences." Yet "closing that financial gap, even a little bit, will depend in part on the ACC Network’s success and reach." The financial gains "will not be realized overnight, or perhaps even over a couple of years." Meanwhile, construction of on-campus studios in preparation for the net was "mandatory" for ACC schools. Some "saved costs by renovating existing facilities." N.C. State "did that and still spent" approximately $6.6M. UNC "built a new studio"and spent $15M (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 8/20).
BRISTOL OPERATION: In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes although the new net is "branded with, focused on and saturated by the ACC," it is "unquestionably an ESPN venture." As such, its "success or failure is largely out of the ACC’s hands." The ACC "no longer has control over its own destiny." The history of the conference will "forever be divided into pre-network and post-network." The ACC Net is a "long-haul play for ESPN, which is why it took so long to convince the network to get on board in the first place." In an "era of cord-cutting and unplugging, ESPN remains a strong draw both via traditional and satellite providers and via the internet." The ACC Net will be "pulled along in its wake." There are "risks, of course, but they are small and insignificant compared with the risks the ACC would face by not having a network of its own to attempt to keep pace with the Big Ten and SEC, while securing its position ahead of the network-less Big 12 and the weak-networked Pac-12" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 8/22).
CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS: In Syracuse, Chris Carlson reports while live event coverage is "likely the most critical component of the channel to most viewers," the first few days on air "should give fans a taste of the other types of shows and programs that will fill the time between competitions." The station will hit the air with the flagship "All ACC" program, which will be "hosted regularly" by Kelsey Riggs, Jac Collinsworth. Jordan Cornette and Dalen Cuff. Tonight's show will include appearances by ACC Commissioner John Swofford, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. It will be "followed by a documentary on Duke basketball’s recruiting class of 1982 and a half-hour launch version of The Huddle, which will be the channel’s signature football show." The weekday morning talk show, “Packer and Durham,” air 7:00-10:00am ET beginning tomorrow (SYRACUSE.com, 8/22).