Under new TV deal with ESPN, ACC schools to see increased payout

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2010

The ACC and ESPN on Thursday announced a 12-year partnership, starting in fall 2011 and running through 2022-23, that gives ESPN exclusive broadcasting rights for every conference-controlled football and men's basketball game -- along with some of the ACC's Olympic sports -- while more than doubling the television revenue for the conference's 12 schools.

Under the conference's current television deal, which expires at the end of the upcoming athletic year, the league reportedly receives an annual payout of $67 million. Citing industry sources, the Sports Business Journal pegged the new television deal at $1.86 billion over 12 years, with $155 million distributed annually to ACC teams.

When asked to confirm the $1.86 billion figure, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a teleconference, "I cannot confirm that, other than to tell you I've read some things that have been written that have been quite accurate."

The lucrative contract is still dwarfed by the reported 15-year deal worth $205 million annually that the SEC signed with CBS and ESPN two summers ago. The ACC's deal is exclusive to ESPN, except for continued syndication from Raycom, a 30-year partner of the ACC. It is the first time the ACC has sold broadcasting rights to football and men's basketball together.

Raycom President Ken Haines said there is "virtually very little change" in what Raycom is doing in the ACC territory, but it can now expand its syndication outside of the ACC's geographical footprint. ESPN Executive Vice President John Skipper said ESPN and Raycom will "co-exist," and called Thursday's announcement a three-way arrangement.

The majority of games will be broadcast across ESPN's array of networks, including ESPN's broadband network and mobile telephone simulcasts. All regular season intra-conference football or basketball games will be broadcast on one of ESPN's channels or through online or mobile services, or syndicated on Raycom.

Under the league's current television contract, the ACC had a deal with Fox Sports Net to televise basketball games on Sunday evenings; starting in the 2011-12 season, those games will be on ESPNU. ESPN will also televise both men's basketball games between North Carolina and Duke. The ACC will retain its archival and digital rights.

"This is the first time at ESPN where we've done an all-in deal with a conference, where we've worked to be able to acquire all their product," said ESPN Executive Vice President John Skipper, who mentioned sports such as men's lacrosse as an attractive part of the deal.

The announcement comes weeks after the college sports landscape was briefly disrupted by rumors of widespread shifts in conference alignments. Swofford said the ACC will continue to divide the television revenue equally among the schools -- a reported sticking point during discussions of Texas being included in Pacific-10 expansion -- and that the conference will remain stable.

Negotiations took place for 15 months, so the ACC and ESPN were deep in discussions when conference changes became imminent elsewhere. Skipper said realignment was only casually discussed in negotiations, although the agreement includes provisions if the conference changes during the life of the deal.

"The deal remains valid if the conference has a different composition, and at the end of the deal, we negotiate to handle any change," Skipper said. "And one of the reasons it didn't come up is it's clear that the ACC is a very sound conference, not likely to change."

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