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ACC, Pac-12 Discussing ESPN TV Partnership

Following Big Ten's conference realignment moves, the two conferences are looking at all options.

Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated are reporting that the ACC and Pac-12 are discussing an ESPN TV partnership in the wake of the Big Ten adding USC and UCLA to its conference. Details from their reporting

The proposal, still in its infancy, heavily involves the ESPN-owned ACC Network. Under the plan, the ACC Network—or a renamed entity combining the two leagues—will have exclusive rights to broadcast Pac-12 games to West Coast households through ESPN cable providers. The agreement is not a merger or consolidation of the leagues but is instead built around a media rights agreement with the worldwide leader in sports—an effort to clap back at the Pac-12’s loss of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten.

While the joint move could feature marquee nonconference matchups from the West and East Coasts—think Clemson-Washington or Miami-Oregon—the primary reason behind the partnership is the TV property. This would replace the failed Pac-12 Network with a reliable provider that can reach millions of homes out west.

The potential agreement could conceivably benefit all involved: The ACC is expected to receive long-sought additional television revenue; ESPN gets a piece of Pac-12 inventory; and the Pac-12 presumably stays intact, with its 10 remaining members getting an attractive TV arrangement. It might also be a more desirable alternative for Pac-12 schools than looking to join the Big 12. At least one Pac-12 source disputed reports of “serious” talks between some remaining schools and the Big 12.

However, those briefed on the ACC–Pac-12 proposal believe it has plenty of hurdles to clear and details to be ironed out before becoming a reality. This should be a more long term and deliberate decision that could take weeks, if not months, to rectify, says one administrator. The key question: Does the arrangement generate enough additional revenue to be worthwhile?

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One administrator who has knowledge of the discussions said ACC athletic directors first heard of the idea during a conference call Friday. “It’s something that has been considered worth exploring, but nothing has had any detail put behind it,” the administrator said. “The general response has been, ‘Give us more [specificity].’”

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