News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Thursday, April 15, 2004
by Will Stewart,

ACC Ready to Sign Off on New TV Deal

The Greensboro News & Record and Landmark News Service both reported yesterday that the ACC is close to signing off on a new football TV contract with ESPN and ABC that represents a significant increase in the dollar amounts from the league's current contract.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford emerged from two days of league meetings at the Grandover Resort and told the media, regarding the ABC/ESPN contract: "It has been OK'd and adopted in principle. It's a matter of lawyers finalizing contractual terminology."

Swofford didn't give figures, but it was widely reported a couple of months ago that the new deal, which will run for seven years, will pay the league in the neighborhood of $37 million to $38 million per year, an increase of at least $15 million over the league's current $22 million per year contract.

Even with the league going from nine to twelve teams, the new contract will increase the per-team payout from $2.4 million to $3.1 million. Much of the extra money comes from the ACC championship game that starts at the end of the 2005 season, but a significant portion of it also comes from increased TV appearances on ESPN. The league will go from nine appearances per year on ESPN to 18. On Thursday nights, the league will go from three appearances per year to six.

Regarding the Thursday night games, Clemson president Jim Barker said in a recent interview with The State that not all ACC schools were willing to play home Thursday night games, due to the disruptions they cause on campus.

"The way the contract is being discussed, we expect what will happen is no schools will have to play a Thursday night game on their campus if they do not want to," Barker told The State. "We probably all will play Thursday night games. We like the exposure it gives us, so we would not at all be opposed to playing at another school. But we’re not inclined to play on our campus. We’ll have some flexibility now that the ACC is a little bit bigger."

That means that the Thursday night games will be held on the campuses of schools like Virginia Tech, that have hosted Thursday night games in the past and don't mind the disruption. This season, VT hosts Maryland on Thursday, November 18th, and travels to Georgia Tech on Thursday, October 28th, so count the Hokies and Jackets among the teams who don't appear to have a problem hosting Thursday night games.

The State also reported that in addition to the championship game and more Thursday night games, the new package calls for Labor Day games and Thanksgiving games. It was reported last September that Florida State and Miami will kick off the ACC season by playing in prime time on Labor Day in both 2004 and 2005, giving the league an early marquee matchup. It's a smart move, because the team that loses will have all season to recover and end the season highly-ranked, improving the chances for the league to get two BCS bids.

The idea of Thanksgiving games is a little more ominous. No one wants to play on Thanksgiving -- Barker said he didn't expect Clemson-South Carolina to be moved to Thanksgiving "anytime soon" -- and one wonders if the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry, which has been played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving most years since about 1990, will be targeted for Thanksgiving in the future.

The new television contract takes the ACC into SEC and Big Ten territory when it comes to football TV money. The SEC rakes in $50 million a year from CBS, and the Big Ten's contract is "in the range" of the ACC's new contract, according to The USA Today's Rudy Martzke.

It's clear that the league is going to have to earn the extra money, with the increase in Thursday night games, the Labor Day games, and possible Thanksgiving games. But while the extra money is nice, the extra exposure is great, too. It's a brave new world for the ACC, which is striving to be perceived as one of the top football leagues in the country, on par with the SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12. From this point on, they'll have the money and the exposure those leagues have.

The dollar figure for TV money does not include the syndication package from Jefferson-Pilot, which is expected to add another $1 million or so per year to the league's coffers. The syndication package will expand from eight games to ten games, and the negotiations on that contract are ongoing.

Related Article: ACC Will Get Richer TV Deal for Football, Greensboro News & Record, 4/14/04


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