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Volume 20 No. 42
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One year later, ACC ups its rights fees by a third

More games, more rights and most of all, more money. That’s what was at stake when the ACC reopened its 1-year-old media contract with ESPN.

The new terms, signed off on last week by the network and the conference, elevate the ACC’s media revenue to $3.6 billion over the next 15 years, or $240 million per year. That’s a 32.9 percent increase over the previous contract, which originally was signed in 2010 and went into effect last year.

ESPN now can sell title or presenting sponsorships to all ACC championship events.
“At the league level, you continually try to provide the resources, both tangible and intangible, to help your institutions going forward,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “This enhances our TV relationship from a financial standpoint and an exposure standpoint, and both of those are very important.”

The ACC’s previous contract with ESPN essentially was outdated before it went into effect. Shortly after the ACC agreed to its initial deal with ESPN for $155 million a year in 2010, the Pac-12 shocked the collegiate world with a 12-year deal with ESPN and Fox for $250 million a year that reset the market.

The numbers were so staggering that the Pac-12’s contract continues to influence other conferences. The ACC expanded last year with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, giving it the ability to immediately renegotiate its terms with ESPN. A clause in the old deal permitted the conference to go back to the table if its number of teams changed by two or more.

The SEC did the same, expanding with Missouri and Texas A&M to grow to 14 teams. Like the ACC, the SEC has been in contract renegotiations with ESPN to sweeten its deal.

The Big 12 has reacted, too, agreeing to new deals with ESPN and Fox that will be worth $192.3 million a year for its 10-team league.

“We definitely want to make sure that we’re at least in the same neighborhood with our peers,” Swofford said. “Every conference is different and it’s hard to compare them, but this agreement certainly achieves that. There should be a sense of well-being among our institutions that they have the resources to reach their competitive goals.”

The ACC’s deal includes some terms that weren’t part of the original ESPN contract.

The new agreement now extends to 2026-27 and grants the network the ability to sell title or presenting sponsorships to all of the league’s championship events, including the basketball tournament, with league approval. ESPN previously had the rights to just the football championship game.

ESPN also came away with more game inventory, including three Friday night or afternoon games. Two of them will be hosted by Boston College and Syracuse, while the third will be a Thanksgiving Friday game.

With the ACC expanding its conference regular-season basketball schedule to 18 games and adding Syracuse and Pitt, ESPN will broadcast 30 more men’s basketball games a year and two more conference tournament games. In football, 14 more conference-controlled games will be televised each year.

IMG’s Barry Frank and Wasserman Media Group consulted with the ACC on the talks, Swofford said.

The ACC's old contract
Years Total money Avg. per year Avg. per school per year
12 $1.86 billion $155 million $12.9 million
The new contract
Years Total money Avg. per year Avg. per school per year
15 $3.6 billion $240 million $17.1 million

Current college television deals
BIG TEN $1 billion/10 years 2007-2008 through 2016-17 ESPN/ABC June 2006
  $72 million*/6 years 2011-12 through 2016-17 CBS June 2011
  $2.8 billion/25 years 2007-2008 through 2031-32 Big Ten Network August 2006
Notes: With the addition last year of former Big 12 member Nebraska, there are 12 schools in the Big Ten. Big Ten Network debuted in 2007. The conference and News Corp. jointly own the network and share expenses.
BIG EAST $200 million/6 years 2007-2008 through 2012-13 ESPN/ABC August 2006
Note: Pitt and Syracuse will be moving to the ACC, and West Virginia is leaving to join the Big 12. In response, the Big East will add Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Navy, San Diego State, Southern Methodist and Temple.
SEC $2.25 billion/15 years 2009-10 through 2023-24 ESPN/ABC August 2008
  $825 million/15 years 2009-10 through 2023-24 CBS College Sports August 2008
Note: Missouri and Texas A&M will join the conference later this year, giving it 14 members.
ACC $3.6 billion/15 years 2011-12 through 2026-27 ESPN/ABC, ACC Network/Raycom May 2012
Note: Pitt and Syracuse will join the ACC, giving it 14 members.
BIG 12 $1.17 billion/13 years 2012-13 through 2024-25 Fox March 2011
  $1.3 billion/13 years 2012-13 through 2024-25 ESPN/ABC March 2012
  $78 million/4 years 2008-09 through 2011-12 FSN April 2007
Note: Last year the conference lost Nebraska and Colorado, reducing it to 10 members, and this summer it will lose Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC. In response, West Virginia and Texas Christian will join the conference this summer, keeping it at 10 members.
PAC-12 $3 billion/12 years 2011-12 through 2022-23 ESPN and Fox May 2011
Note: Former Big 12 member Colorado and former Mountain West member Utah became the 11th and 12th members of the conference last year.
* Basketball only Sources: Conference Form 990s filed with the IRS; conference officials