Rights issues could prove problematic for ACC Network

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

Alabama and Virginia Tech will play for the
John Swofford and the ACC will have a difficult time starting an ACC Network. (USATSI)

Ever since the ACC announced its schools had agreed to a grant of rights deal there's been speculation of the conference forming its own network. Speculation that makes sense given the fact that the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC have already done so.

Unfortunately for the ACC, creating its own network may not be as simple as it was for those other conferences. The Sports Business Journal writes that the ACC's current television deals could stall the formation of such a network.

Don't expect an ACC-branded TV channel to be launched any time soon.

The biggest problem so far is a rights issue. ESPN needs to control the conference's syndicated rights to launch a channel. But those rights are tied up until 2027 through deals with Raycom and Fox Sports Net.

“There's no way an ACC network co-exists with a syndicated model,” said Chris Bevilacqua, a media consultant who worked with the Pac-12 to form a league network. “They're going to have to get those rights back.”

The Sports Business Journal goes on to report that the idea of an ACC Network wasn't even discussed much during the recent spring meetings and that the earliest the ACC would launch its own network would be in 2016 or 2017, and it might not happen then, either.

When the ACC agreed to its latest television deal with ESPN in 2010 it also made a deal with Raycom that gave the company the ACC's digital and corporate sponsorship rights. It also gave Raycom the rights to 31 live football games and 60 live basketball games. And while it's possible the ACC and ESPN could reach an agreement with Raycom to buy those games back, it's not that simple.

Raycom sublicensed a portion of those games to regional Fox Sports networks within the ACC's footprint -- games that are very important to those regional networks, so buying those games back (17 football, 25 basketball) will not come cheap.

ACC schools currently receive about $18 million apiece from the television deal, but that number will grow to about $20 million should ESPN decide not to form an ACC Network. Which isn't chump change by any means, but could pale in comparison to the money that schools from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC get from their television networks in the future.

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