The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC all have their own television networks. All three have made money for their respective conferences. The ACC and the Big 12 are on the outside looking in and with their contracts with ESPN and ESPN/Fox, respectively, you’d think that there would be a clamor to get their own networks started. However, there doesn’t seem to be a hurry in either conference’s case. And what’s even more discouraging for fans hoping to see a cable ACC Network or a Big 12 Channnel, that the window for starting one up may be closing.
When the idea for the SEC Network began, the cable climate was different, ESPN was seeing itself on a evein playing field with the broadcast networks and looking to be a major player in college sports. And while the Worldwide Leader is a major player, several things have changed since the SEC Netwok began operation in 2014. The first thing is cord cutters. ESPN has fewer subscribers than it did five years ago and it’s had to cut costs over the last year.
In addition, the Longhorn Network which had paid a windfall to the University of Texas hasn’t been the runaway success that ESPN had hoped and while publicly the Worldwide Leader said it’s fully committed to keeping its commitment to running the network, it hasn’t quite captured the attention of Longhorn fans.
So with that in mind, a full-scale ACC network like the one the SEC has might not be coming as soon as the conference and fans would like. As Chadd Scott writes in Gridiron Now, the idea of the conference TV network as we currently know it might be dead. Instead, Scott writes that perhaps the ACC (and the Big 12 too) might want to be patient and try to develop something that could the first-of-a-kind, perhaps a hybrid of a TV network and a multi-platform online channel:
Instead of trying to be the last of what was, the ACC and Big 12 should focus on being the first of what’s next, whatever that is. Patience, hard as it may be, could be the best course of action, particularly for the ACC.
And what’s key here is that the ACC will stand to get paid if a TV network isn’t offered by ESPN by this summer. That’s according to ACC TV voice Wes Durham in an interview with Louisville Sports Live:
“ESPN has a clause in their contract that if they do not offer a network by July 1 of 2016, they owe the ACC – reportedly I should say – a clause in the contract that requires ESPN to pay the ACC $45 million a year to be divided among its schools,” Durham told Louisville Sports Live.
And that would be on top of what ESPN currently pays the ACC so if this is the case, perhaps it’s best for the ACC to wait and try to develop something. With the reported $45 million extra that ESPN has to pay the ACC if a network isn’t being offered, the league would pass the Big 12 in rights fees as CBSSpors.com’s Dennis Dodd reports. And as we know in college sports, money speaks volumes.
So maybe the door has closed on developing an ACC cable TV network, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. With the cable landscape changing with each passing day, perhaps the ACC could be in the forefront of developing a new type of viewing experience for its fans and find a new revenue stream rather than straight right fee payments.