With fans, media and an ill-informed board chairman parsing the ACC’s new media package with ESPN, a network executive chimed in Tuesday.
“Over the weekend, there was widespread speculation and confusion regarding ESPN’s recent rights agreement extension with the Atlantic Coast Conference,” Burke Magnus, the network’s Senior VP for college programming wrote online. “In response, we want to take the opportunity to explain a few key facts related to our ACC agreement.”
Magnus debunked Florida State Board of Trustees chair Andy Haggard’s angry assertion that the ACC had ceded third-tier football rights to ESPN while retaining them for men’s basketball. Magnus also confirmed what sources told me Sunday, that escalating payments, a back-loaded contract as many described, are commonplace.
“This arrangement is not unique to the ACC,” Magnus wrote. “The pre-existing agreement between ESPN and the ACC (that carried through 2023) had an escalating rights fee schedule and the deal we announced last week contains a similar schedule. There is nothing unusual about how ESPN is paying the ACC over the life of this deal. It’s the industry standard.”
The 15-year ACC-ESPN contract, which gooses conference schools’ average annual media revenue from $13 million to $17 million, took on a life of its own Saturday. That’s when Haggard, in an interview with Warchant.com, cited it as reason Florida State should consider leaving the ACC for the Big 12, casting a cloud over this week’s ACC spring meetings.
Regional and national media pounced, and FSU president Eric Barron took to email in defense of the ACC. Odd doesn’t begin to describe.
Magnus adds to the strange narrative. With investments in the ACC, Big 12 and other major conferences, ESPN figures to tread lightly in realignment matters. But given the just-completed agreement with the ACC, you have to believe the network would prefer the Seminoles and their football program, in decline of late but still a national brand, remain part of John Swofford’s posse.
Perhaps Magnus’ missive – you can read the complete post here -- was toward that end.
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