I get the feeling that this particular part of whatever chapter of college football realignment we’re in will end up looking slightly ridiculous in retrospect. Maybe not, but look at where we are now, apparently: the ACC and Pac-12 may, as part of a wider agreement, create a television network together?
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.
The Pac-12’s choice to bet on itself and start its own group of networks—six regional networks, still to this day a mind-blowing act of overreach—is maybe the most significant reason why that league is currently on the verge of dying. The lack of distribution among major providers has been a huge problem.
So it makes obvious sense here for the Pac-12 to want to broker a deal with ESPN/the ACC to establish a wider reach. The ACC, I guess, would primarily gain from the added inventory provided to ESPN, and also by doing whatever bidding ESPN deems appropriate. Because it’s ESPN that is in control of whatever eventually shakes out on this non-Big-Ten/FOX end of the college sports spectrum.
This is madness, though, right? A shared network between leagues thousands of miles apart and with nothing in common? How could this ever end up a functional concept? It can’t mean that much to the ledger for the ACC, which again to be clear already exists in this space with its own network.
But UCLA and USC are in the Big Ten now, and television is the reason, so I guess the pure avarice of everyone involved answers the questions at hand. Nothing has to make sense anymore, it just has to make cents. (Ha ha because of money, you see.)
Maybe this will end up a tangible agreement between the Pac-12 and ACC, facilitated by ESPN. Still feels like everybody’s pulling my leg, though.