Ever since the Atlantic Coast Conference and ESPN signed a long-term rights deal in 2012 through the 2026-27 academic year, observers have been wondering when a league-owned network would begin. Since that time, ESPN and the SEC partnered on the SEC Network leaving the ACC on the outside looking in. Now, an ACC athletic director is optimistic that the league will get a cable network sooner than later.
Dan Radakovich of Clemson says the ACC is closely monitoring what the other major college conferences are doing and desperately wants to keep up with the Jonses. Radakovich tells the Clemson Insider that the ACC wants to see some movement from ESPN on the ACC Network and wants to see some movement in the near future. And the launch of a TV network will be priority number one during the league’s athletic directors gather for the annual spring meetings in May.
Radakovich says the ACC is worried with the latest Big Ten media rights about to be finalized with Fox and another network. Plus the ACC wants to strike while the sports rights bubble is still hot:
“It’s clear they’re (Big Ten and SEC) bringing in more revenue than we are and we have to be able to help mitigate that at some point and time, and the network is a way to do that.”
Radakovich adds that ACC Commissioner John Swofford has been thinking about the creation of an ACC Network practically every day h steps into his office:
“I hope at (the spring meetings) we get a really good update from the league as to where we are. I know there is a lot of work going on within the league office and our consultant is actually handling the negotiations. I know with Commissioner Swofford that is the first thing he thinks about every time he walks into the office.
“What we have to understand is if we get a network, this is not only revenue coming to the Atlantic Coast Conference, but is also a revenue producer for (ESPN). So as they look to expand their opportunities of revenue, this is a pretty good way to do it. We have a lot impetus on both sides to be able to get this done.
“I think the one reason why it has been kind of pushed back a little bit, and I think you guys have heard this before is the distribution channels and the ability for ESPN to get on the Comcast, the Time Warner and the DirecTV. Those are really done during their contract negotiation periods or renewals with those cable providers and those start to happen in 2018, ‘19 and ‘20.”
Radakovich said that even in the wake of cord cutting and fewer subscribers to cable television, the best way for the ACC to go is to create a TV network and have ESPN as a partner due to its experience and brand.
“I will put my bet on the really smart people on ESPN to understand how to monetize live sports television because it is not a weekly serial sitcom or something else that it is easily DVR and watched at another point in time or movie. Live sports are really a unique situation as it relates to television. They are at the forefront of owning rights and being able to create those types of monetization of those rights.”
So as the ACC goes forward with ESPN, the pressure mounts to start a network and it appears that this may become a reality in the near future.