Swofford shares how ESPN contract came to be
Posted February 16, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — In a speech at The Raleigh Sports Club Wednesday, John Swofford, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, shared some of the behind-the-scenes details in the deal that landed the highly-coveted men's football and basketball games on the ESPN family of networks.
As the ACC negotiated with ESPN, Swofford said, the initial offer for broadcast rights was $1 billion. "I thought it was an insult," Swofford said he told his negotiating partners.
His instincts were correct. After about a year of negotiations he characterized as "tough," the conference signed a 12-year deal reportedly work almost twice that much.
The Associated Press reported that ESPN is paying $1.86 billion for games from 2011 to 2023. According to the AP's report, that works out to about double the league's current annual TV revenue.
Swofford said he was pleased not only because of the value of the contract, but because the ACC was able to preserve a long-standing relationship with Raycom Sports, which has carried the conference games since the early 1980s. The new deal allows ESPN to "sublease" some games to Raycom in ACC markets.
"This deal will takes us to new heights in financial, coverage, branding and technology," he said.
Although the contract officially kicks in next season, some of those impacts are already being felt. Swofford cited the ACC app and online video vault as advances facilitated by the partnership with ESPN.
"You can watch live games on a iPad thing," he said with awe.
Those are only some of the new opportunities the ACC has in store.
He also mentioned some programming changes he called advantages from the fans coming in the 2011-12 sports season.
Football games, previously slated for noon kick-offs, will now start at 12:30 p.m. Swofford said the extra half hour will allow more students to get to the games.
ACC Sunday night basketball games will tip no later than 6 p.m., a fact he said will sit well with coaches.
After his prepared remarks, Swofford took some questions. Key among them was the issue of a playoff to name a Division I football champion. While various options have been discussed, Swofford said the existing BCS bowl structure is successful and complex, and it unlikely to change.