were finalized today were finalized today were finalized today

ACC TV Contract, Big 12 Expansion and FSU TV


The television contract negotiations ACC re-opened with ESPN in the winter

were finalized today

. Though the actual terms have not been declared, reported amounts reflect almost exactly what was anticipated as far back as February. That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of hysteria reverberating concerning conference alignment.

And now that the online face of the 2010 conference talks is in the mix, Orangebloods.com reporter Chip Brown, business is really about to pick up. More on that in a moment.

The new ACC contract spans 15 years, two longer than the deal the Big 12 brokered on Monday. It’s also worth reportedly $1 billion more than the Big 12’s package with ESPN and FOX. I wrote on Monday that the Big 12 would have somewhere around $6 million more to spread among its 10 members; the final product is probably closer to a $4 million disparity, and comparable to what the SEC currently has (though the SEC is renegotiating and should land a blockbuster package).

If the Big 12 pot is static, another split with two more members would prove a marginal difference between it and the ACC’s contract. However, Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy’s cooperative report on CBSsports.com stated there could be stipulations to maintain that $20 per member figure in the event the Big 12 adds members. JugOfSnyder.com is reporting that Big 12 expansion will happen. Who those targets are is less certain, reiterating my stance.

Yes, a mystery on par with Danny Sheridan’s Cam Newton bagman and the depth of Chip Kelly’s relationship with Willie Lyles is unfolding. The list of potential Big 12 targets referenced at JoS include Clemson and Florida State, two names kicked around freely but with little substance over the past week. Notre Dame is a pie-in-the-sky possibility as it pertains to football. The Big East’s instability makes UND moving other sports likely, but football is the lucrative lynch pin. NBC and Notre Dame is too mutually lucrative a relationship for either to sever ties, so BYU as a football-only partner becomes the substitute.

Georgia Tech and Maryland are mentioned, the latter even appearing as No. 2 on the list. Absent is the name that has lingered the longest, Louisville.

ACC basketball is a big winner with the new contract, adding 30 broadcasts on ESPN. Football’s gain seems negligible. The ACC will get decent billing for Tier 1 broadcasts, but it’s on the lower end that the deal loses some luster. ESPN has rights to Tiers 1-3. While ESPN has numerous resources, even the Worldwide Leader has finite broadcast time. That means some less than attractive possibilities, including Friday nights. Fridays have typically been home to lower level games from the WAC and Big East.

Tier 3 coverage is going to be the interesting sticking point of the new deal. Availability of games via ACC syndication was a cause of consternation last season. The ACC is having to play catch-up in making such contests accessible, as other upper echelon conferences are reinventing the model.

The Pac-12’s landmark contract introduced last season is using its own, new network to supplement coverage. The Big Ten has found success with its network, and the Pac has an even stronger model with a greater take-home of its revenue. Conference TV is a successful model; individual isn’t.

Here is where aforementioned Brown joins the fray. He took to Orangebloods.com this afternoon, addressing the particulars as they pertain to Florida State. He addressed Tier 3 coverage, citing the Longhorn Network as an attractive possibility. Another cable network dedicated solely to a single institution will not happen in this round of conference realignment, if ever again. Certainly not in the LHN model, which has fallen so flat, suggesting it as the conference’s golden ticket to woo FSU is a headscratcher.

Here’s Brown on the possibility:

"The Seminoles are in one of the few states – with a population of 19 million – in which a university could turn its third-tier rights into the school’s own television network the way Texas has done in the Lone Star State (population 25.6 million)."

Texas landed a $15 million check from ESPN for LHN. That’s worth nearly five times more than the amount of television users who can even view it. And as Brown mentions, that’s in a state with almost seven million more residents than Florida. Service providers have proving unwilling to pay additional service fees for a product so niche. Here’s DirecTV’s stance:

"We’ve had discussions with ESPN about Longhorn Network, but we have no plans right now to carry it. We understand Longhorn has other programming that may be of value to a small segment of our customers, but two UT football games do not constitute a network. We’re happy to carry those two games under the considerable fees we already pay ESPN for programming that includes the Big 12. Given the dynamic situation in college football conferences today, we’ll wait and see how it all shakes out before we decide what we will or won’t carry."

Barring FSU finding religion — meaning, becoming a religiously affiliated institute that can supplement sports coverage with that aspect like BYU’s more widely available network — a Seminole channel isn’t happening.

Though the figure Brown cites “an industry source” as floating for the hypothetical FSU Network is $5 million, that’s still a wild investment for what is thus far, a failed business model. The Big 12 was fracturing while LHN was being bartered — what the league needs now is solidarity. Its new contract should be proof enough.