Next week, Clemson and North Carolina will meet in the ACC football championship at Bank of America Stadium in a match-up that, as of this week, is sold out. John Swofford, the ACC commissioner, has maintained close ties between the conference and Charlotte — a relationship he told me Tuesday could extend to housing an ESPN-backed cable channel if the league and the media company decide to move forward with a joint venture.
Three of the five major conferences have dedicated cable channels already. The Big Ten Network started in 2007 and is owned by the conference (49%) and Fox Sports (51%). The University of Texas, with IMG College and ESPN, launched The Longhorn Network in 2011, which explains, in large part, why the Big 12 doesn’t have a channel. Next came the Pac-12 Network, wholly owned by the conference, in 2012. In 2014, ESPN started the SEC Network, which set a record for distribution (the number of homes the channel is made available in by cable companies). The SEC Network is based in Charlotte at ESPN’s Ballantyne studios.
The ACC, like the SEC, has a long-term contract with ESPN for football and men’s basketball games and, if an ACC cable network is created, it would be done in tandem with ESPN. The current contract with ESPN pays the ACC an average of $300 million per year through 2026-27.
“There’s not much I can tell you at this point in time other than it continues to be a work in progress,” Swofford told me Tuesday when I asked him about the prospect of an ACC channel. “And we’re satisfied with that progress. We’re not yet at a point where we’re definitive in what we intend to do or when we intend to do it, but we’ve got a great partner in ESPN. It doesn’t get any better than ESPN in sports television and our discussions are ongoing.”
Swofford, similar to what industry analysts told me this week, noted that the how and when of a network launch are complex, crucial questions.
“It’s a difficult time right now,” said sports media consultant Lee Berke. “You’ve got issues regarding a shrinking pay-television audience, consolidation of distributors and a lot of new (cable) networks having to buy their way on (to cable systems) as opposed to receiving a (subscription) fee.”
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Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.