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Is The ACC's Next TV Deal Enough To Stave Off Defections?

Brian: The big news from yesterday was that ESPN and the ACC reached a deal on football and basketball broadcasting rights. The ACC gets an equal share, so that gives ACC members an annual payout of a little under $12 million. While the deal more than doubles the ACC’s old TV broadcasting deal, it falls short of the SEC’s blockbuster $17 million/year payout. The money also falls well short of the Big Ten payout, a figure that reportedly could increase substantially with expansion.

Conference expansion talks have been rampant. Programs such as Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech have been mentioned as possible SEC expansion targets, while recently Maryland and Virginia were even brought up as potential Big Ten expansion targets.

Given the ACC’s new television deal, do you think that will be enough for these programs to pledge loyalty to the ACC for the foreseeable future? Or is the gap between SEC/Big Ten money and the ACC still too great to encourage ACC programs to look elsewhere?

Jeff: I think it is safe to say that all 12 ACC programs and their fans are happy with this deal. I am somewhat surprised of the length of the deal considering the potential shakeup of all the conferences and the realistic possibility that the ACC might be negatively affected.

Brian: I’d be willing to bet that there’s language in the ESPN-ACC contract that outlines what happens if there is a huge conference realignment.

Jeff: As nice as the deal was and the importance of staying on ESPN, I don't know what Florida State would do if offered a spot in the SEC. Just because the financial gain has shrunk, there still is significant gain to be had and the SEC id king in football right now. I really don't see many schools that are all about football turning down the SEC no matter what the other circumstances. There are considerations like playing an SEC schedule is not the easiest way to the National Championship Game, but I really don't know how highly that would be weighed.

Brian: I think the easier path to a National Championship is a solid argument, and will probably keep a program like Florida State committed to the ACC. Also, what’s unclear is while programs like Florida State and Clemson might be entertaining the notion of moving to the SEC behind closed doors, it’s unclear whether the SEC would even want Florida State or Clemson. Any SEC expansion program would have to fetch an additional $17+ million so that the current SEC member schools don’t lessen their mega-TV broadcast rights annuity. Programs like Florida State and Clemson wouldn’t command nearly that $17 million number in incremental revenue. The Seminoles would come much closer than Clemson, but would still fall way short.

The only type of program that could fetch that type of money is a Texas or a Notre Dame, both of whom are on solid financial footing in terms of their current TV deals (Texas taking the lion’s share of the Big 12 revenue and Notre Dame with their NBC deal).

I absolutely agree that the ACC’s TV deal does a lot to mitigate the flight risk of any of their member programs, but I think the bigger threat is not going to come from the south but rather the north. Where the SEC’s ESPN TV payout is generally fixed at $17 million annually, the Big Ten Network offers no such ceiling. Programs like Maryland and Virginia, if called, would be stupid not to go running to the Big Ten. Testudo Times alluded to that possibility just yesterday.

So overall, I think the ACC’s TV deal shored up programs from defecting from the SEC, but the threat of the Big Ten poaching a Maryland or Virginia (however unlikely these schools being Big Ten targets is) remains a very real possibility given the revenue gap now and going forward.

Jeff: Clemson would not bolster the SECs ability to negotiate a television contract but Florida State or Miami absolutely would with their national draw and great history. The knock on the SEC right now is that their ratings outside the Southeast are not very good. Florida State might draw a few people but is not going to move the needle too far.