ACC considering creating a conference network

Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

The ACC hired a consulting firm to study the feasibility of creating an ACC Network similar to the Big Ten's cash-cow.

Since expansionpaloza finally calmed down after great conference sundering of 2012, there's been a lot of clamoring for each conference to mimic the Big Ten's Big Ten Network. And with good reason: BTN has been a complete success and has made the Big Ten member institutions a lot of cash. The Pac-12 recently followed suit, and the SEC is close behind. (As a fan, that's lead to unseemly idea that athletic conference only exist to provide their conference channels with programing, but that's for another day.) But with the additions of Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and (sort of) Notre Dame, the ACC is investigating its own dedicated network. Sports Business Journal broke the story yesterday:

While its media rights are tied up with ESPN for the next 15 years, that hasn’t stopped the conference from beginning the process of deciding whether such a channel is feasible. It hasn’t had formal talks with ESPN, which would have to play a big role in any ACC channel since the network controls the league’s rights.

But ACC Commissioner John Swofford has quietly been exploring a branded channel and began floating the idea for it in the fall, around the time that Notre Dame joined the league in all sports but football. The Fighting Irish have committed to play five ACC opponents in football each season, but it will maintain its independence.

For the ACC, it potentially could allow the conference to keep up financially with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, which have all launched or are close to launching branded channels, and sources say the conference sees it as an enticement to keep schools from being seduced by other conferences.

Sources also say there continues to be angst among the conference’s presidents and athletic directors over the league’s ability to keep up with its peer conferences financially. The Big Ten lured Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, away from the conference with its future media revenue projections. The Big Ten’s numbers, buoyed by the growth of its channel, showed that each school’s revenue will rise to more than $40 million by 2020, compared with $24 million in the ACC.

And the article discusses the issues with any such arrangement. Most notably, with cable providers seemingly under pressure to hold the line on rate increases, charging consumers for yet another sports channel could cross a tipping point. With subscribers already paying a substantial percent of their monthly bill for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNNews, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and shortly, Fox Sports 1, we may have reached critical mass for sports programming. Add that ESPN is reportedly "lukewarm" against competing with itself in several overlap markets and I'm not sure this is something that's in the immediate future.

Locally, the problem is magnified by the existence of the Big Ten Network, which is already costing Comcast subscribers nearly a dollar per month. Would Comcast carry the ACC Network in addition to BTN in the Pittsburgh market? Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath. Guerilla warfare would have to be declared to get Pitt fans to push the ACCN on and possibly, the BTN off. I like the idea of that as much as I like writing posts about television subscriber rates.

But hey, if the ACC Network does come to fruition, WE GOT JOKES!

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics.

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