Griffin addresses ACC network possibility

1. At the recent ACC meeting of athletic directors, talk of an ACC cable network was a well-received topic of discussion, Georgia Tech acting athletic director Paul Griffin said.

“I think the members were very excited about the potential, he said.

With the league looking for additional revenue sources that can help member schools compete with the other BCS conferences, a network in partnership with ESPN could provide that aid. Griffin described the conversation as “very preliminary.” Still, he said it’s conceivable it could be running by the 2014-15 academic year, when Notre Dame and Louisville join the league and the four-team football playoff begins.

Griffin said there is interest with both ESPN and the league for further research and assessment. It was reported in Sports Business Daily in January that the league hired the Wasserman Media Group "to explore the financial benefits" of a network.

“ESPN and the league will think about it, talk about it and say, ‘What has worked for some of the other models, and what are the strengths of a potential model in the ACC?’” Griffin said. “’What are the business structures and all the other kinds of ingredients?’ I don’t know how to put a number on a likelihood or a forecast on the year, but when it was initially discussed, it wasn’t rejected.”

The addition of Notre Dame in all sports but football, in which it will play five games annually against ACC teams, would give a league network broader appeal. Further, the addition of Louisville, Pitt and Syracuse extend the geographic footprint of the conference.

The ACC’s 15-year contract with ESPN gives member schools an average of $16.9 million annually. By comparison, the addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten means its annual TV rights fees could bring $30-35 million annually to each school, which was a significant reason Maryland left the ACC in November.

ESPN’s planned launch of an SEC network in 2014 and questions about how cable distributors would receive an ACC network are two of the biggest challenges.

“It’ll be interesting to see,” Griffin said. A league network “seems to be the way of a lot of enterprises, both college and pro.”

2. Even without a network, the ACC is estimating an additional $3.5 million in annual revenues per school in 2014-15 due to a number of factors – the addition of Notre Dame and Louisville, a renegotiated TV contract, the BCS playoff and a new deal with the Orange Bowl that will pair the league champion against a team from the SEC or Big Ten or Notre Dame.

3. Griffin also addressed the ACC's reported interest in bringing the men's basketball tournament to the Northeast, specifically the New York area – possibilities include Madison Square Garden, the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Prudential Center in New Jersey.

“That region is a very attractive region for the ACC and its members and valued by Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and others,” Griffin said. “Louisville’s been going there for years as well, also, (as a member of the Big East).”

Griffin said the benefit is “exposure and taking your product and your brand to not only various geographical locations, but ones in which you have corporate sponsors as well as alumni.”

The league is accepting bids for the 2016-2021 tournaments. Philips Arena, which hosted the tournament last year, is a possibility.

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