LONG SHOT: ESPN, ACC, And Pac-12 Talked About A Joint TV Deal. Could It Really Happen?


As the Pac-12 waits for a new media deal and the ACC attempts to sort out there issues with members it might be worth restarting a conversation that began last summer…

Update: A deal is expected before the end of March Apple TV+, Amazon prime video and ESPN are all in the mix with the majority of the games expected to be streamed. But things are fluid and might change.

Not long after USC and UCLA left the Pac-12 for the Big Ten the ACC who has a history of not rushing into things wondered if there was a chance, they might be the next conference that would be poached. The rumors began back then that Clemson and Florida State were not happy with the ever-growing gap between the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC.

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips and Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff met to talk about the future and how both conferences might work out a way they could keep their members happy. Enter an unlikely partner to these conversations a couple of program executives from ESPN.

The ACC inked a deal in 2019 that seemed both wise and lucrative, they would have stability through an agreement with ESPN to broadcast all their events through 2036 and the Worldwide Leader was going to launch the ACC Network. Despite ESPN doing everything it promised all the way up to now in 2023 the deal doesn’t seem as enticing to some as it was when they loved it in 2019.

Some in the conference were upset that not only were they far behind the Big Ten and SEC, but they were not that far ahead of the Big 12. Meanwhile, out West, the Pac-12 was fending the Big-12 who is ready to poach members while wondering if the Big Ten would snag a couple more of schools to join with UCLA and USC.

So, the ACC and the Pac-12 began to look at ways they could perhaps form a partnership that could gain the dollars needed to keep their members happy enough to stay put and not bolt to another conference.

The Sports Illustrated reporting team of Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde was the duo that broke the story about the conversations and what was discussed by the group. There would not be a merger or an alliance but a proposed partnership where the ESPN-owned ACC Network — or a renamed entity combining the two leagues — has exclusive rights to air Pac-12 games to West Coast through multiple ESPN cable providers. The deal between the Pac-12 and the ACC would be a media rights agreement and likely take the place of the existing Pac-12 Network.

Why would ESPN want to help the ACC and Pac-12 on a new network?

Money and the ability to stabilize two of its main brands is the answer.

The ACC Network has at present about 48 million subscribers and could benefit from the number of homes they could add in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

In the states where there is an ACC team the network is getting about $2 per month from its cable deals through ESPN. Put the Pac teams in there and the fees will go a bit higher while adding new subs producing some impressive dollar per month figures.

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