ACC Secures $1.86 Billion Television Deal with ESPN

Carlos PinedaCorrespondent IMay 18, 2010

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 28: Quarterback Josh Nesbitt #9 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets rushes upfield against the Clemson Tigers in the 2009 ACC Football Championship Game December 5, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The ACC has reached a deal with ESPN for its television rights to football and basketball.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the new deal is worth $1.86 billion over 12 years. The new contract will pay the conference $155 million a year.

The ACC's current deal, which ends in 2010-2011, pays the league $67 million a year for its television rights, averaging on a per-school basis $5.6 million. The new contract will give each institution more than double what they take home now, an annual pay of $12.9 million. 

The way the current contract is designed, it is divided between football and basketball. The new deal with ESPN combines both sports. The football deal it currently has is a seven-year, $258 million agreement with ABC/ESPN that expires this year.

Raycom Sports pays the ACC $300 million over 10 years for basketball through 2011. Because ESPN has the television rights for the ACC, Raycom is expected to continue to air basketball and football games by subleasing them from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

Included in the deal, ESPN will keep airing football games on Thursday nights as well its Saturday afternoon and night games on ABC.

Another selling point for the network was keeping the North Carolina-Duke basketball series on ESPN. The network is known for providing ACC basketball on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights during the season.

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“We have had mutually beneficial relationships with ESPN and Raycom for decades, and this allows us to continue both relationships for a long time,” one ACC administrator told ACCSports.com. “Some of the details have changed, but we’re excited that both companies will remain ACC partners for the foreseeable future.”

Original projections were reported to give the ACC $120 million a year, but a bidding war between ESPN and Fox Sports raised the pot by $35 million, only benefiting the conference.

Although the deal is short of the $205 million that the SEC gets each year from CBS and ESPN, the ACC came out in a better position than anybody could have thought of. Each SEC institution receives an average of $17 million a year, only $4.1 more than the new ACC contract.

The ACC was not in a great state of mind leading up to its new TV rights deal. The conference was not going to get anywhere near a deal like the one the SEC received due to its lack of success, and the economic downfall did not help.

When the league expanded in 2004 to 12 teams, it wanted to compete head-on with the SEC, but its strong parity has become a problem and a hard sell for football fans.

Since adding a conference championship game, ratings and attendance have been low. The inaugural game between Florida State and Virginia Tech in 2005 drew 72,749 in Jacksonville, but attendance has dropped each subsequent year.

This past season saw an exception, where the game between Georgia Tech and Clemson saw a slight increase due to the Tigers' following. The game had 42,815 in attendance, where in 2008 only 27,360 attended.

One can blame part of the attendance woes on Wake Forest and Boston College (twice) having played in the game. Both of which have a reputation for fans not traveling well.

Taking the conference title game out of Florida and moving it to Charlotte is bound to bring more patrons to the game since it is relocating to the heart of the conference.

Another struggle for the conference is the inability to be able to produce a championship contender. The ACC has not been able to put two teams in the BCS, which takes away any additional revenue from the league.

The ACC is looking to turn a corner, and with its new television deal, part of the deal is secured.

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