Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conference TV Contract: The ACC

The ACC is in the uneviable position of having to renegotiate their TV deal at a time when the economy is in poor shape and companies of all sizes are cutting back, including TV networks.

The ACC's primary television contract is with ABC/ESPN. ABC gets the top choice of ACC games each week, then ESPN/ESPN2 can pick games. Raycom follows with their regional game selection, then ESPNU gets to pick a game.

One of the strong points of the ACC contract is that their is no exclusivity with respect to time slots and who can air a game at a particular time. Raycom's time slot is generally fixed at 12pm, but ESPN Networks games can air at the same time. ABC and ESPN Networks can also run concurrently. By doing this, this allows the ACC to have maximum flexibility in getting games on TV.

One of the quirks that benefits the ACC is the "reverse mirror" concept that ABC uses for Big Ten games (more on that later). When ABC area a Big Ten game at 3:30pm ET that is not a national game, markets receiving that Big Ten game receive an alternate game on ESPN/ESPN2 . Because the ESPN has full national cable rights to ACC football, the ACC often shows up for these reverse mirror games to about 25%-75% of the country, depending on the distribution of the Big Ten game on ABC.

For the ESPN part of their TV contract, the ACC also allows for several games to be selected for Thursday nights. The conference also has an agreement with ESPN to provide a game in primetime on Labor Day.

The ACC also allows for ESPN360, ESPN's internet service, to select games to be exclusively streamed online.

Any games not selected could be aired on PPV or on ACC Select, an streaming partnership between the ACC website and CBS College Sports.

So what does the future hold for the ACC? Its tough to tell. The conference offers its members so much flexibility that it will be interesting to see what they do if the shop their rights elsewhere. Supposedly the conference is exploring a multi-conference TV network with the PAC-10 or Big 12. Sports Business Journal reported that Discovery Networks' FitTV was offered up to the ACC, possibly for the joint conference network.

Raycom's portion of the contract will be another piece that could switch, though SBJ also reported in the past that ESPN was not necessarily interested because they would be competing with themselves in many markets that also air SEC regional telecasts.

The ACC hasn't seen the marked improvement it expected when BC, Miami and Virginia Tech showed up, but its not for a lack of getting their games out in the marketspace.

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