Raycom relishes ACC Network role
Posted September 10, 2013
At a time when so much sports programming is moving to cable, Raycom Chief Operations Officer Jimmy Rayburn remains bullish about the more traditional brand of televised sports.
“I’m an over-the-air guy,” Rayburn says. And he has the numbers to prove it. Raycom’s ACC Network now airs on 90 different stations (including WRAL-TV), at least one-third of which are actually outside the ACC’s geographic footprint. The ACC Network, at present, reaches 54 percent of the households in the United States.
When the ACC signed a long-term rights agreement with ESPN in 2010, the conference also chose to maintain a relationship with its long-time partner Raycom. Through syndication rights granted by the ESPN and the ACC, Raycom produces two football games each week – one for regional cable on the Fox Sports Network and another for the ACC Network, whose over-the-air tradition dates back more than 50 years.
And at the present time, over-the-air remains an important part of the ACC’s television portfolio. In the Raleigh-Durham market, fully 12 percent of the households do not receive cable or satellite. Rayburn notes that in other parts of the South and some urban areas, the number of people who receive only over-the-air television is even greater.
Steve Martin, who has called ACC games on television since 1990, says not much about ACC football inside his booth has changed over the past 23 years. “Except,” he says, “we have more commercial material. And that’s a good thing.”
Understandably so. While a cable sports company like ESPN can generate as much as 75 percent of its revenues from subscriber fees, an over-the-air network doesn’t have that luxury. Traditional TV networks must create revenues almost entirely from advertising.
Raycom now operates the last over-the-air regional sports network serving a major conference in the entire country.
I recently watched a tape of an ACC football game from the late-80s, and I can tell you there is much that is different about the product. Stadiums are bigger, facilities are finer, coaches are more energetic, and players are stronger and faster. All this and more are reflected in Raycom’s coverage, which began an important new element a couple of years ago: The ACC Blitz. Under the new contract, Raycom decided to ramp up its portrayal of the ACC, acquiring a new state-of-the art HD production truck and adding a game day hub in Charlotte. Result: the network can now better cover the entire conference during its telecast – not just the two schools featured on the ACC game of the week. And it boasts a picture quality second to none.
Last Saturday, I spent two plus hours in the Raycom truck for an up-close look at how the ACC Network’s coverage unfolds. On Tuesday afternoon, I’ll give you a timeline of what transpired behind the scenes, in this new age of televised sports in the ACC.