Heather Lyke likes the exposure the ACC Network will give Pitt athletics when it launches Aug. 22.
“It’s a national network,” Pitt’s athletic director said Wednesday while meeting with a small group of reporters. “So your brand goes across the country. It gives us the chance to tell the stories of who our kids are and who our coaches are in a much more transparent way.”
The ACC Network’s 24/7 blanket will be comprehensive, too. There are plans this year to televise more than 450 live sporting events, including 40 football games, 150-plus men’s and women’s basketball games and championships from all of the conference’s 27 sports not covered by another network.
But finances rule the landscape in college sports, and that’s where the network will play its most important role.
“Economically, the revenue as it relates to television is significant and real,” she said. “We’re behind, frankly, at the ACC up until this point. Now, obviously, we’re going to catch up pretty quickly with the successful launch.”
The ACC reported total revenue of $464.7 million in its 2017-18 federal tax return, an increase of 11.1 percent from the previous year but fourth among the Power 5 conferences, the Daily Press of Newport News, Va., reported.
It also is double the $232.4 million total from 2012-13, the year before Pitt was part of the conference’s most recent expansion.
Distribution to 14 member schools in 2017-18 averaged $29.5 million, with Pitt getting $28.3 million. Notre Dame, which does not play football in the ACC, received $7.9 million.
Lyke declined to quantify the financial impact of the network, mentioning it will depend on how many of the larger cable companies jump on board and carry the network’s programming.
“We have conservative projections from the ACC, but right now it’s a lot dependent on distribution,” she said. “So certain cable companies will drive that number significantly. So it’s just a matter of who signs on and at what point.”
Lyke pointed out Comcast, which covers Pennsylvania, Florida and New England, didn’t offer the Big Ten Network until 18 months after it launched.
That’s why she is calling on Pitt fans to call their cable provider and “not ask if they’re going to get the ACC Network, but demand,” she said.
“ESPN is working with us very closely and negotiating all the distribution rights. It will be very intense between now and Aug. 22 to see which cable companies will pick it up.”