Clemson Football: Could ESPN Merge ACC and PAC-12 Networks? – Rub the stone | Region & Cash

I was enjoying the last day of my vacation sitting on the porch of my sister-in-law’s home in Charleston, SC wondering what was next for Clemson Football when I came across this article by John Canzano. Canzano is connected to the PAC-12. The article discusses the dynamics of ongoing negotiations with ESPN over a new television deal for the conference. He goes over some scenarios with Bob Thompson, former president of Fox Sports Network, that could decide the future of the conference.

When the issue of the ACC/PAC-12 “alliance” is raised, Thompson dismisses the relevance, stating:

“It seems to me the game is that the ACC network somehow serves both conferences and replaces Pac-12 networks, ultimately increasing ESPN’s payout to the ACC.”

This caught my attention. Thompson suggests it’s a non-starter, but am I crazy to think that merging the two networks would actually be a good idea, especially for ESPN?

I’ll admit my first reaction to the ACC/PAC-12 alliance was a chuckle. I wasn’t sure if it was real. It sounded like someone was making something up. Coast-to-coast cross scheduling? A championship game in Las Vegas? It didn’t sound serious, so I really didn’t pay much attention to it. These things are absurd and should be dismissed immediately.

One thing I remember was that the supposed reason for doing this was to increase the payout to members of both conferences to find a way to stay competitive with the SEC and Big Ten schools that are expected to is that they are generating significantly higher television revenues than they are going into the second half of this decade. That part made a lot of sense.

However, the reasoning Thompson proposed brings new logic to the alleged discussions between the ACC and the PAC-12. What if this is an ESPN angle? Could you be interested in a joint ACC/PAC-12 network? Could ESPN have put a bug in Jim Phillips’ ear? Let’s look at it for a minute.

I enjoy seeing Rubbing The Rock editor Marty Coleman invade the ACC Network. Marty points out that Texas high schools have better production quality for their football broadcasts than the ACC Network. ESPN wasn’t willing to invest the same kind of money in ACCN as SECN. In fairness, ACCN is not nearly as widespread as SECN nationwide. It doesn’t pull the same kind of revenue. Draws less revenue = invest less in the network.

If you’re looking for an example of a network that was even less successful than ACCN, just look to the left coast. The PAC-12 decided to launch a network without a major sports cable affiliate, just as the Big Ten (FOX) and SEC (ESPN) launched their networks. I understand: no affiliate, no revenue share. They simply underestimated the difficulty of getting enough distribution to make the company successful, or more accurately, they overestimated the reach of the PAC-12 brand.

Now look at this from ESPN’s perspective. Given that a new deal with PAC-12 would involve acquiring their network (and that might be a big assumption), does it make sense that ESPN would still operate a third conferencing network? Especially if you already need inventory for ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU? They would likely take over the current distribution of the PAC-12 network and gain some ground because the ESPN brand is strong, but ultimately they would face the same struggle they had with ACCN: The brand doesn’t have much of an appeal like that Big Ten and the SEC.

What happens if you merge the ACC and the PAC-12 into one network? They immediately increase distribution for the network of primarily southern and eastern markets it now has to include markets in the western states. Not only California, but also Arizona (Phoenix), Colorado (Denver), Utah (SLC), Washington (Seattle) and Oregon (Portland). They’re probably bringing Las Vegas with them too.

Of course, given the time difference, you can do ACC programming early in the day and switch to PAC programming later in the day. The ACC/PAC-12 network could offer live sports programming most Saturdays from 12 p.m. Eastern time to midnight Pacific time, which two individual networks could not do alone.

Many questions remain unanswered, but one option ESPN may be considering is merging the ACC and PAC-12 networks

That sounds good for me. It’s not like ACCN endeared itself to me or other Clemson fans out there. There might be haters who just want to dip into the PAC-12, but there’s no logical reason why a fan of an ACC school would have a problem sharing airtime on the network when it would make more money for their school . Most Clemson fans who only see the Tigers are as indifferent to Syracuse and Louisville as they are to Utah and Stanford.

That’s the key: Does this mean more money for all schools in the ACC and PAC-12? Or does it just mean more money for PAC-12 and ESPN? Will ACC schools get any boost? Will Clemson see any increase in television revenue? It’s hard to know, but I think so. It wouldn’t be huge, but every bit helps, especially with Clemson tied to the ACC until the rights grant expires in 2036.

The ACC/PAC-12 network makes a lot more sense if it’s something ESPN is interested in. If the “alliance” is actually about merging the networks and nothing more, that sounds reasonable. It may have been hatched by the ACC schools as a plan to try to generate more revenue, but if ESPN likes the idea, it probably has legs.

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