Thursday, September 13, 2012

ESPN saved the ACC, but can kill it again via a Notre Dame TV deal

The ACC is basically saved and we can mostly thank ESPN. The network didn't break the bank on the Big XII TV deal nor pay a premium for a Big XII Championship game, making Clemson and FSU less desirable.   ESPN also signaled to the ACC that adding Notre Dame would generate additional TV money (bringing us closer to revenue parity with the other major conferences). Now we have football stability, added prestige and a significant exit fee preventing future defections. Everything seems great. But there is still a looming crisis with Notre Dame at the center.

NBC and Notre Dame
As part of the ACC deal, Notre Dame gets to keep its football revenue. The Irish home games are currently broadcast on NBC and the average fan assumes that relationship will carry on in perpetuity. That's not the case. NBC is not happy with Notre Dame right now. NBC/Comcast planned on bidding for the Big East TV deal for its NBC Sports Network. Notre Dame's move just devalued and destabilized that potential property. The deal also strengthened NBC Sports' biggest rival in ESPN. While Notre Dame is still an important draw for NBC, will they pay a premium for the TV rights when their current deal expires? I don't think that is a given anymore. CBS, Fox and ESPN will also be eager to cut a deal with Notre Dame. If it becomes a bidding war, I don't know if NBC will still want to partner with Notre Dame. And if they do, will they still allow Notre Dame to dictate so many terms. NBC wants to build its cable network. The Irish so far are hesitant to play their games there. Also, Notre Dame wants the majority of their home days during the day. NBC would rather have them at night.

ESPN and the ACC
Although ESPN is the ACC's exclusive partner, they are not precluded from bidding on Notre Dame's football rights. Think about that conflict for a second. When the NBC deal comes up, ESPN could conceivably give Notre Dame $50 million a year. They could enrich one member of the conference far above all the others. They could give one member of the conference all their preferred time slots and create special programming. While the Irish are independent, they will be playing five ACC teams a year and taking a portion of our non-football money. How fair will this partnership feel if this situation plays out? Notre Dame would be dumb not to take the money and favoritism. It has always worked towards their advantage.

My advice to ESPN
Playing favorites with Texas nearly unraveled all of college football. No matter how enticing it might be to finally bring Notre Dame into the fold, do not do it at the expense of the ACC. Any ND football deal should have the same payout the Irish would get as if they were a member of the ACC. Who knows, that is more than NBC is paying now and may be enough to close the deal. Branding is important to Notre Dame and so is association. They might prefer to be with ESPN at the expense of more money from NBC/Comcast.

The ACC teams are currently powerless, so if ESPN gave Notre Dame a huge TV deal, there isn't much we could do initially. But the bad blood would undermine the league, ESPN's relationship with the ACC, and conference stability for years to come. These sorts of dominoes combined with the new playoff and NCAA frustration could lead to a football mega-conference split. If ESPN does value college sports and values its ACC deal, hopefully it will think big picture when it comes to dealing with Notre Dame.


starvs said...

much ado about nothing. Notre Dame is going to get enriched far more than the other members of the ACC by the nature of their football standing, doesn't matter where it comes from.

mod34b said...

Here are a few interesting comments from the Swofford/ND news conference:

Q. You mentioned about being all-in. Does the new exit fee -- does that apply to Notre Dame, and when does that go into effect?

JOHN SWOFFORD: It does apply to Notre Dame, and it goes into effect immediately.


FATHER JOHN JENKINS: If I could just piggyback on that, the University of Notre Dame has an identity that was formed over a long period, from the days of Rockne. We have more fans in Massachusetts and New York and Ohio than in Indiana. We're proud to be in Indiana. We didn't feel we could give that up without losing our identity in some way, and we're just deeply grateful to the ACC who have been such great partners in recognizing that.
But I just want to say emphatically and clearly, that aside, we're all-in in the ACC. We're committed to this conference for athletic purposes, but even more deeply, as Nathan Hatch articulated, for the affinity of institutions and the affinity
of values that exist. So on behalf of Notre Dame, I want everyone to understand we're deeply committed to the AC

downtown_resident said...

I'm not sure how the attendees at the press conference didn't laugh when Jenkins made his "all-in" comments. Yeah, sure you're all-in for the ACC. All-in except for your premiere sport, which will maintain its independence, general scheduling authority and separate TV deal. Well, other than that, I guess ND's all-in.

CT said...

I'm not so sanguine now that Miami went into storied Manhattan, Kansas and got smoked. Like, you know, looked really bad. Who knew that #22 ranked teams can look like the '99 Rams or '07 Pats, huh? When you're worried about going to NW and getting beaten, you know you have problems.

The good news: Miami has such little talent on defense, that they make our guys look like the '85 Bears. I am heartened by the fact that we play in the ACC and we might eke out 6-7 wins. Not enough for the new AD not to can this blog authors favorite coach.

Can we not recruit one d-lineman who makes plays? My kingdom for 1/2a Raji, 2 Tbsp of Kiwi, and one cup of Herzy.

I like the ND move. Maybe they eventually join in football, maybe they don't. Who cares? It's good in terms of economics, basketball and branding. Am I missing something? The ACC can get mocked all they want for giving in to football independence, but there is no way ND would cede that to any conference. They've been invited to join pretty much every league, anyway, save maybe the SEC, where they don't fit, and they chose the ACC. With Syracuse and Pitt joining, the ACC is back on top in basketball. When that's all you've got, even if it's a distant #2 in popularity, you open the champagne.