AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — When John Swofford got word ESPN laid off 100 employees as part of a massive budget cut, the Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner got on the phone immediately with ESPN President John Skipper.
The cuts came less than a year since ESPN and the ACC announced a 20-year partnership along with the launch of the linear ACC Network in 2019. Swofford, who has seen the ACC through two expansions and the rise of its football status on the national landscape, needed immediate reassurance that there would be no issues in the two partners starting the new network on time or otherwise.
The partnership, which is supposed to run through 2036, will provide more access than ever to live ACC events via a comprehensive, multi-platform network. More than 1,300 events will be distributed across the platforms when the network launches.
“Immediately, I had some conversations with John Skipper,” Swofford told The Clemson Insider on Thursday after the ACC wrapped up its annual spring meetings at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia, Island, Fla. “We talk fairly often so that is not unusual, but he immediately gave me absolute full assurance that the layoffs and their sort of readjustments within the company, in terms of their efficiencies, does not affect the launch of the ACC and ESPN Channel one bit. They are totally unrelated.”
The ACC Network will feature 450 exclusive live events, including 40 regular-season football games, more than 150 men’s and women’s basketball games, and more than 200 other regular-season contests and tournament games from across the conference’s 27 sponsored sports. News and information shows and original programming will also be available.
But over the last several years, ESPN’s decline in its number of subscriptions has caused the sports leader to continue to lose more and more revenue each year. With deals with the SEC, as part of the SEC Network, in place as well as its NFL and NBA packages, some wonder how the capable network can afford to pay for all of its rights partners.
“They are a very progressive company,” Swofford said. “They are getting into direct consumer disruptions. They are getting into the smaller packages in addition to what they have traditionally done.
“The comfort that we have is you can’t have a better partner in the distribution of live sporting events than ESPN and Disney. They know how to do it. They made adjustments over the years. They are making some adjustments now. I fully expect it to be totally what we expect it to be. If there are different distributions going forward then they will be right in the middle of it. We feel really good about it, both from a revenue standpoint and from an exposure standpoint. That has not changed one bit.”
With the ACC’s revenue from the ACC Network tied into how it performs, the ACC is confident nothing will change.
“That has not changed at all,” Swofford said. “With ESPN we do analysis on it on an ongoing basis in terms of subscriptions and what our projections are, what the distribution mechanism will be and that has not changed one bit.
“We just completed a set of analytics with ESPN on that so we continue to feel very bullish about the revenue generation opportunity that is there.”