Notre Dame, Louisville add luster to TV contracts

Notre Dame, Louisville add luster to TV contracts

Football

Notre Dame, Louisville add luster to TV contracts

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By Ed McGranahan.

By Ed McGranahan

Louisville adds a layer of football muscle the ACC needed to strengthen its position as a relevant national player, and with Notre Dame the league can explore tapping additional revenue streams.

During a teleconference this week North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp said the decision to embrace Louisville “was that what the ACC needed the most was to add the most exciting sports program that we could.”

It was an interesting twist because the league tended to smirk earlier this year when Louisville was recommended after an extensive survey of potential new members.

“That is the way to ensure that the success of the ACC in sports was successful enough to allow us to keep our group together,” Thorp said. “We feel very good about the addition of Louisville in every respect, but our logic was that we wanted to make the ACC as exciting a sports conference as we possibly could and we felt that Louisville unambiguously did that for us the best.”

Newly crowned Big East champion, Louisville opens a market untapped by the ACC. Louisville has the 48th largest TV based on Nielson DMA numbers with an estimated 671,000 households. For comparison, Greenville-Spartanburg was 37th with 846,000, Raleigh-Durham 24th 1,150,000, Tallahassee 106th 273,000.

ESPN reported recently the Louisville market averaged a 4.1 or higher rating or higher the past five seasons and has been the top market for 10 years for men’s basketball, ranking ahead of the Tobacco Road markets in Greensboro and Raleigh.

Notre Dame’s independence in football creates a different set of dynamics within the league. The league’s current agreement with ESPN was expected to generate in the neighborhood of $17 million annually per school. Football accounts for roughly 80 percent of the revenue, so Notre Dame would be eligible for a share worth about 20 percent.

In 2008, NBC signed an agreement through 2015 reportedly worth $15 million annually for Notre Dame home football games. Right now, it would appear to be a bargain. NBC reported that Notre Dame’s ratings are up 67 percent over last season. The USC game was the most watched Notre Dame game on any network since 1993.

Its 10.2 was the highest on ABC by any college football game since Michigan-Ohio State in 2006.
The top three markets for Notre Dame are New York, Chicago and Boston. Philadelphia and Los Angeles are in the top 10, which means when an ACC football team plays a game in South Bend it will be available in an estimated 1.2 million more homes via the Irish network.

In May the ACC announced it burned its two-year old TV contract with ESPN and struck a new agreement worth $3.6 billion pending the addition of Pitt and Syracuse as league members. According to at least one source the addition of Notre Dame and Louisville may create an opportunity to renegotiate again.

The most recent deal with ESPN includes basketball and some Olympic sports coverage, but the league may now be ready for an ACC Network, much like those created for the Big Ten and Pac 12.

One of the factors that reportedly made the Big Ten appealing to Maryland was the potential for up to $40 million annually with the league’s network.

ACC commissioner John Swofford, not as eager as Chancellor Thorp to concede Louisville’s membership the result of a sports agenda, was also careful in explaining the league’s position when asked about a potential ACC Network.

“You don’t do that just for the sake of doing that. You do that because it’s the right thing for your league financially and from an exposure standpoint moving ahead,” he said. “We’ll continue to look at that. It seems to be the sexy thing in today’s world, but it also needs to be the right thing and the thing that’s best for our particular conference.”

A source says discussions are underway, and there’s speculation that NBC may become a player to challenge ESPN’s, which would seem to work in the ACC’s favor.

Remember when you couldn’t buy Coors outside Colorado?

I knew a guy back then who bought a case of beer during a trip to Denver and wrapped his clothes around the bottles so they wouldn’t break. It worked. When he unpacked the suitcase, all the bottles were intact but his clothes were dripping in beer because the tops couldn’t hold the pressure of flying at 30,000 feet.

Now you can fill your car trunk with Coors and at the gas station and be home in 15 minutes. Trouble is that the beer doesn’t taste the same. Maybe because the water in Eden, N.C., doesn’t compare to or resemble that from its Rocky Mountain spring or the company doesn’t have the handle on quality control it did when the beer was brewed only in Golden, Colo., or the sheen has been scrubbed from the intrigue and fantasy of snagging a rare treat.

I’m sure there’s a message in that story.

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