Officials from the ACC and Pac-12 are discussing a broadcasting partnership with ESPN that would bring together the two Power 5 leagues from opposite coasts for a mutually beneficial relationship, sources tell Sports Illustrated.
As reported by Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde of SI, the proposal would see the ESPN-owned ACC Network — or a renamed entity combining the two leagues — 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 a media rights agreement to counter the Pac-12's loss of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten Conference. It would replace the failed Pac-12 Network with a reliable provider that can reach millions of West Coast households.
Additional benefits include the ACC realizing long-sought additional television revenue, ESPN getting a piece of Pac-12 inventory, and the Pac-12 remaining 10 teams presumably staying intact, SI reported. It might also be a more desirable alternative for Pac-12 schools than looking to join the Big 12.
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, according to Dellenger's report. “The general response has been, ‘Give us more [specificity].’"
"In a way, the proposal is an extension of the Pac-12 and ACC’s so-called alliance with the Big Ten, a non-binding agreement announced last year whose goal was believed to be to prevent any further expansion among the Power 5," the SI authors wrote. "It was a response to the SEC’s 2021 acquisition of Texas and Oklahoma, but it blew up spectacularly when the Big Ten raided the Pac-12."
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips and his Pac-12 counterpart, George Kliavkoff, have a good working relationship, according to sources, and are exploring ways to work together.
For the Pac-12, the partnership may be the best possible solution to retain its remaining members, but it's unclear exactly how much additional revenue it would generate for the ACC, whose members are estimated to receive far less in media rights revenue than their competitors’ new deals in the Big Ten and SEC. The ACC is locked into its current deal through 2036.
"The new partnership with the Pac-12 may not reopen the contract, but it will change the bottom line," the SI authors wrote. "That might be the best option for the ACC, because a complete renegotiation of the contract could open a path for the league’s most valuable properties — North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Virginia — to explore leaving. As it stands, escaping the ACC’s grant of rights deal could be both costly and complicated."