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Atlantic Coast Conference explores idea of own TV network

| Monday, May 13, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — The Big Ten Network reaches 100 million households and 300 cable providers in the U.S. and Canada.

The Southeastern Conference recently finalized a 20-year agreement with ESPN that includes the August 2014 launch of its own network that will televise more than 1,000 events in the first year.

Armed with what he calls new-found “stability and solidarity,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said Monday he believes his conference may be able to make similar advances in televising its products.

“We don't want to let any grass grow, and I don't think ESPN does either,” said Swofford, who updated conference athletic directors Monday on the viability of the proposed ACC Network.

A major part of the business being conducted this week at the ACC spring meetings involves discussions aimed at building that network. Swofford said the conference — now that it is growing westward from the Atlantic Ocean and northward with the additions of Pitt and Syracuse — is well-positioned to undertake many ventures.

“Everything is very healthy from an exposure standpoint,” he said. “I don't know if anybody has any greater exposure. With the grant of (media) rights agreement, that enhances a lot of things for us going forward.”

The grant of rights makes it nearly impossible for a school to leave the conference for fear of forfeiting huge TV revenues. But adding schools such as Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame this year and Louisville next year puts more eyes on the conference and gets more TVs tuned to its games.

Swofford said the 15 schools will give the ACC footprint a population of about 107 million, the largest of any conference.

“By 2030,” he said, “over 50 percent of the population of the U.S. will be in the ACC footprint.”

Swofford put the timetable for an ACC network on a similar planning clock as the SEC, which started talking about its network about two years ago and is a year from fruition. “Something of that nature is probably realistic for us in terms of that decision being made,” he said.

“We will look at it very strategically, and — as business partners — see if we can find the right niche for a potential channel to be a viable business venture for us and ESPN,” he said.

“We will go ahead and jump into the analysis of it in an aggressive fashion. How long that takes us remains to be seen.”

He said the most important issues to be resolved are “content and distribution.” But those talks remain in the preliminary stages.

“We had begun some conversations before the grant of rights,” he said, “but with the grant of rights, that conversation becomes more serious and accelerated.”

Notes: Swofford said he plans to attend Pitt's ACC opener against Florida State on Sept. 2 at Heinz Field. ... Florida State athletic director Randy Spetmen said his fans are making plans to attend the game “in droves. Expect to see a lot of garnet and gold.” The schools haven't met in football since 1983.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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