Now that Pittsburgh and Syracuse are the newest members of the ACC, the conference has decided to begin the process of revisiting their television deal with ESPN. The current contract, a 12-year deal, $1.86 billion exclusive rights contract for football and men’s basketball, can be renegotiated in the event of expansion.
ACC commissioner John Swofford wouldn’t say how much the new deal would be worth, but the additions of Pitt and Syracuse by 2013 (unless an earlier exit is agreed upon) could place it well above the roughly $155 million annually the conference receives now.
“My only goal would be the preference of sooner rather than later,” Swofford told the Associated Press. “We’re negotiating with a current partner that we know well and are already well-engaged with.”
The benefit of expansion is that many conferences, if not just about all, have provisions in their TV rights contracts that allow the two parties to revisit the terms of the agreement if the conference grows. Likewise, a deal can be nullified if a conference loses too many members and/or its attractiveness. This was the issue the Big 12 was facing if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State left for the Pac-12, and why Baylor was refusing to waive their right to litigation when Texas A&M appeared on their way to the SEC in August.
Baylor didn’t have much of a case to prove the departure of A&M would cause the Big 12 to lose its TV contract with ABC/ESPN and FOX, but that’s the danger of losing valuable conference members.
Conference realignment, more than anything, is about long-term financial growth and stability. And, when a conference expands, new members need to provide value — whether in television sets or brand recognition — so it can successfully revisit its TV contract with distributors.