Thursday, May 02, 2013

What the SEC Network means for the ACC

ESPN and the SEC announced the SEC Network Thursday. None of it was a surprise as the SEC has publicly stated a desire for their own network after the success of the Big Ten and Pac 12 Networks. Due to the ACC's relationship with ESPN, whatever happens with the SEC will probably be duplicated in the following years with the ACC. Some of the SEC's plans will translate immediately to the ACC. Other issues raise questions.

Production. The SEC Network will come from the heart of the ACC in North Carolina. ESPN has used a production facility outside of Charlotte for ESPN U for years. The SEC Network is just an expansion of that. There is a good deal of ACC production already based in Charlotte via Raycom and ESPN U. When the ACC Network moves from internet channel to true cable network, you can predict the production will be based in North Carolina.

Content. ESPN needs to fill all of their current platforms (ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN U and ESPN 3) yet feels there is enough room and games for the SEC to sustain its own network. The ACC has more teams and therefore more games. Currently we supply a disproportionate amount of games (among the major conferences) to ESPN U and ESPN 3. If the ACC becomes a true network like the SEC, how will ESPN backfill those programming slots that used to be SEC and ACC games?

Cable Households. This will be the trickiest issue for ESPN. They will ask for huge premiums for the SEC Network in SEC markets. Can those markets with ACC schools also sustain another push from ESPN in a few years for the ACC Network? The ACC's geography is different enough that ESPN could still generate revenue even if it had to take less in places like Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

ESPN and the ACC just announced a new deal with the Grant of Rights signing. There won't be a formal ACC Network announcement for at least a year. In the mean time, the ACC needs to press ESPN for revenue parity and scheduling parity. With or without a cable network, those issues are critical if the ACC is ever going to catch up to the SEC on the football field.

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