One of the topics that will surely be discussed at this month’s ACC Football Kickoff is the conference’s future, especially as it pertains to the launching of the ACC Network.
Many in the national media have wondered if the network, which will be a part of ESPN’s family of networks, will even get off the ground. In April, ESPN laid off 100 employees as part of a massive budget cut. 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.
Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage told The Daily Press’ David Teel in their Sunday edition that the ACC is very confident the deal with ESPN is a good one, and in his opinion, it is going to exceed some projections.
“Given the demographics of this part of the country. We have a football program (in the ACC) that’s on a very good trajectory,” Littlepage said to Teel. “I don’t see that as changing. Certainly from a basketball standpoint we’ve been performing at very high levels for a long time. And then you look at the other sports, what the ACC has to offer in terms of quality content … is going to be very desirable. … But it doesn’t guarantee anything, for sure.”
The ACC is hoping its network will allow it to catch up with the SEC and the Big Ten, which currently is way ahead of the conference when it comes to revenue sharing with its conference members. In May, 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 in Amelia Island, Fla., back in May, 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 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 all of its rights fees.
“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.
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