Monday afternoon, somewhere between ACC Commissioner John Swofford's appearance at the NASDAQ stock exchange and the University of Pittsburgh's announcement of the upcoming retirement of Larry Fitzgerald's number was this tidbit of information. The local sports network, ROOT SPORTS Pittsburgh, has agreed to terms with the ACC to televise a large number of the conference's sporting events.
Under this new agreement ROOT SPORTS will have access to over 140 live ACC games including select University of Pittsburgh football and basketball games:
17 Football Games
43 Men's Basketball Games
25 Women's Basketball Games
10+ Women's Basketball Tournament Games
12 Baseball Tournament Games
20 Other Olympic Sports Games
Additionally, the network will have the opportunity to air 39 half-hour ACC All-Access weekly magazine shows throughout the duration of the partnership.
While it has not been stated outright, such a deal would seemingly make ROOT SPORTS the local cable Raycom affiliate. Raycom Media, a Charlotte based company, has a 33 year history with the ACC, and at the cost of $50 million paid annually to ESPN, retains the rights to several events from the ACC lineup. Raycom then often subleases the rights to other providers. In this particular case, ROOT SPORTS purchased a similar (if not the same) cable inventory as to what Fox Sports South owns in the southern part of the ACC footprint.
In addition to this news, WTAE announced last evening that they would also be carrying ACC football and basketball games, picking up the package to make them the local broadcast Raycom affiliate. It is believed that this package will also include the "ACC Game of the Week", with 12:30pm kickoff times already on the schedule.
Also competing for ACC broadcasting rights was the CW Pittsburgh. No word has yet surfaced as to whether or not they were able to come to an agreement.
The games that ROOT SPORTS will air could be considered part of the third-tier rights that we have heard so much about during conference expansion. However, in the ACC, the members do not control their own third-tier rights...ESPN does. So instead of receiving the payment directly for these television packages, all monies will flow through Raycom to ESPN and then to the conference members as part of their existing ESPN broadcasting agreement.
ROOT SPORTS brings to the table a large broadcasting area, covering nearly all of Pennsylvania and West Virginia (sans the Philadelphia and DC metro areas), Eastern Ohio, and Western Maryland. The network is also available nationally on Dish Network and DirecTV. This will add a considerable number of television sets to the ACC footprint and expand the Panthers current viewing area outside of Western Pennsylvania. The downside to this deal is coordinating basketball tip times with other events covered by ROOT SPORTS, namely the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins' regular season spans from October through April and will completely overlap the NCAA college basketball season.
With the newly extended ACC television footprint covering almost the entire state of West Virginia, Mountaineers could continue to struggle in their search for a third-tier network. As the Mountaineers prepare to enter their second season in the Big XII and have yet to solidify a deal. They were near signing a deal with IMG Sports earlier in 2013, but the West Virginia Attorney General was asked to step in and look at improprieties in the bid process. The most surprising part of this has to be that West Virginia has cable television.