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Ballparking The ACC's Next TV Deal

Brian: Today through Wednesday, the ACC is holding their annual spring meeting down in Florida. With the conference’s broadcast deal with ESPN and Raycom Sports set to expire at the end of the 2010-2011 athletic year, one of the biggest announcements that could potentially come from these meetings is an announcement of a new ACC TV deal. Conference officials have been in negotiations for months now, and an announcement of a new broadcast rights deal could happen as soon as this week.

While the ACC likely won’t come close to SEC or even Big Ten money, the conference should be able to land a significant dollar amount. In 2007-08, the ACC took in nearly $40.6 million for football and $34.7 million for basketball. Overall, ACC football TV ratings have been very strong. So jokes about ACC Championship Game attendance aside, the conference should have some leverage in this round of negotiations.

As part of the SEC’s 15 year, $3.1 billion TV rights deal with ESPN/CBS, SEC teams take home $15 million a year in TV broadcast rights. Only the Big Ten programs currently match that number, with $8 million of that $15 million figure coming from advertising and subscriber revenue from the league's Big Ten Network.

The current ACC TV rights contract with ABC/ESPN was a 7 year, $258 million deal, while the deal with Fox Sports Net/Raycom is a 10 year, $300 million deal. 

Should the conference temper its optimism regarding the next TV rights deal? What’s an acceptable ballpark figure per school that you are expecting to come out of the next ACC TV deal?

Jeff: Before you call me crazy, keep in mind that the ACC signed its last TV broadcast rights deal before conference expansion was complete. The ACC might have whispered to the networks what its plans were but it certainly was not a 12 team conference that included a northeastern school. Since then, as you have noted, the ACC has had excellent ratings for both regular season matchups and for bowl games. The conference has done everything except produce some national championship contender teams in football on an annual basis. The ACC has performed very well relative to other conferences in football and at the same time college football has grown in popularity at a faster rate than expected.

With all that being considered, I fully expect the ACC's TV contract to double in value at a minimum. I think the ACC might get something close to $100 million a year with a potential clause regarding losing marquee programs to SEC/Big Ten expansion. At a minimum I think the ACC will get $80 million a year for football alone.

Brian: The league certainly won't get anywhere near SEC-type money. I think ESPN may be having a bit of buyer's remorse with the amount of money they shelled out to the SEC now that the economy is in the dumps. I think on the strength of football ratings and our basketball product alone, ACC schools should be looking in the $8-10 million range as far as yearly revenues from TV broadcast rights. 

Certainly, comparing the SEC's TV deal with ESPN and the Big Ten's TV deal with ABC/ESPN and the BTN is comparing apples to oranges, but I don't think it's unrealistic to expect any less than 50-66 percent of what SEC and Big Ten schools take in from TV. 

It will be very interesting to see where these negotiations go, as it may very well come down to an issue of shelf space with ESPN. With all the SEC and Big Ten football games that ESPN has to cover over the next couple of years, it's unclear whether ESPN has money or airtime to spend on the ACC, or if a smaller player like a Fox Sports or Versus comes in and scoops up the ACC. 

The ACC's next TV broadcast rights deal will go a long way towards signaling to the rest of the conferences whose contracts are next up for renewal - the Big 12, Pac 10 and the Big East (if its football conference is even still around by then) - what time of money they could be looking to fetch.