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ACC revenue slips, conference pinning hopes on new network

There is a reason why the Atlantic Coast Conference is launching its own network in 2019. According to a report from The Daily Press’ David Teel, the conference’s total revenue for 2015-16 was down 7.4 percent from the previous year.

Teel reported the ACC’s revenue was $373.4 million, down from the $403.1 million it reported to the IRS the year before.

Though his story gives reasons for the decrease, it also shows the league’s average distribution to its 14 full members fell 10.1 percent from $26.2 million to $23.8 million per school in 2015-‘16. Overall, the league distributed 90.4 percent back to its member institutions. The ACC also paid $900,000 per school in championship reimbursements.

According to USA Today, the league ranked fourth among the other Power Conference schools in total revenue and last in average distribution.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford told The Clemson Insider and a few other members of the ACC media at the ACC spring meetings this past week in Amelia Island, Fla., that they are very confident that once the ACC Network is up and running they will catch up with the SEC, The Big Ten and the Pac-12.

“That is why we are doing the channel,” he said. “We fully expect a gap, particularly with the Big Ten and the SEC, here for a couple of years, but that is the very reason we signed to do what we are doing.

“We fully expect that gap will narrow considerably when we get the channel up and running.”

In 2015-’16, the SEC brought in $639 million and distributed an average of $40.42 million to its schools. The Big Ten distributed $34.8 million to its members after a $483.4 million revenue report.

The Pac-12 reported $28.7 million to its member schools and $488 million in revenue, while the Big 12 totaled $313.2 million and $28.49 to its institutions.

“The reasons we are going the channel route and the route we are going is that is the new avenue, or the different avenue, opened to us as a league that we have not had before,” Swofford said in regards to the changing progression of rights fees and revenue streams. “We fully expect (the ACC Network) to be successful in every way. How successful? We will just have to see.”

The concern with some outside of the ACC, and its partner ESPN, is whether the new network can bring in the revenue the ACC needs in order to continue to compete with the other Power 5 Conferences. With Clemson and North Carolina winning national championships in football and men’s basketball, the ACC was clearly the best conference in the two biggest revenue-paying sports this year.

However, can the league continue to compete and progress at that level?

“When I first became an AD in 1980 that was one of the first questions asked,” Swofford said. “I have seen periods where everybody expected it to go down or backwards or at least plateau. It has not happened, yet. That’s not to say that it will not happen and I think it is particularly hard to predict now because of the technology and the changing technology and the changing habits of the populous.

“You did not always have that. Usually, it was related to the rights fee and would they stay the same. It is not just a rights fee thing anymore. It is still a part of it, obviously, but it starts becoming, in one way or another, with the new channel, the technology and how is that going to be monetized and the distribution aspects of it. There are things that obviously exist today that did not exist back when it was singularly a rights fee race.”

Swofford admits it is hard to predict what will happen moving forward, but he and the ACC are confident that its partnership with ESPN and launching the ACC Network is the best thing for the league.

“The comfort that we have, I think we are in partnership with an entity, ESPN, which does this better than anybody else in the world,” he said. “They have adjusted, adjusted and adjusted very successfully over the years and I am confident that will continue. We have the best partner you can possibly have in live sports television.

“I think we are equipped to deal with whatever unknown changes that may be out there, which is somewhat unpredictable, so that is one reason we feel so confident about what we are doing and who we are doing it with going forward.”

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