On July 4th, I wrote that if you believe ESPN and FOX are driving conference expansion that ESPN has several reasons to keep the ACC viable. I estimated that the ACC Network was making ESPN quite the profit.
ESPN is making in the neighborhood of $75 Million – $100 Million at least, and that is sure to go up now that Comcast has signed up.
It appears I may have underestimated that in light of new information that was released this week.
Paid subscribers (via earnings reports/S&P Kagan):
78m – TNT/USA
75.7m – ESPN
75.6 – ESPN2
74.58m – Netflix(US/Can)
72.2 – FS1
62.6m – CBSSN
54.9m — ESPNU
51.2m — SECN
50.7m — FS2
48.1m — BTN
42m — ACCN
22.3m — ESPN+
9m — Peacock
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) July 15, 2022
Many notable graphics, but this is a genre favorite.
Though it doesn’t list the # of subscribers per channel (important b/c for example, NFL Network is in millions fewer homes than TNT) shutting down NBCSN and moving a lot of sports to USA looks like a good strategy. pic.twitter.com/EwvqYktEc8
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) July 15, 2022
This allows us to make a reasonable estimation of the value of the ACC Network. I’ve seen estimates that conference networks operating costs are ~$100 Million so we’ll use that.
(42 Million Subscribers * .73 subscriber monthly rate * 12 months) – $100 Million Operating Costs = $268 Million.
Divide that into a 50/50 split between the ACC and ESPN, and ESPN just made $134 Million off the ACC Network, and even including Notre Dame as a 15th school. If you noticed as well, nearly every channel showed at least .08 subscriber rate growth in the last 5 years. So if the ACC just goes to .83 in 5 years, the number increases to $318 Million give or take some minor fluctuations, or close to $150 Million coming to ESPN
This may not include all the Comcast numbers either that are barely 6 months old.
So rather than my original estimate of $75-100 Million for ESPN from the ACC Network, let me revise that to $120 – $140 Million.
You do the math. If ESPN is helping drive expansion, 2 ACC teams to the SEC would have to move the future $100 Million per team average or be revenue neutral. Adding 2 ACC Teams to the SEC contract would have to raise the SEC’s deal.
That would cost ESPN an additional $290 Million (2 more teams, at 105 Million a year, worth $90 Million to raise the per-team average by 5 million).
Then the likely dissolution of the ACC Network would add a $120-$140 million loss and ESPN now just took a $400 million bottom line hit to increase the size of the SEC. A diminished ACC would still have a TV rights deal as well.
The numbers simply don’t work in ESPN’s favor to push SEC expansion further – at least in the short term (next 5 years).
Rather ESPN would be more well suited to simply restructure the ACC’s deal.
How this could look either by further expansion or a tv merger with say the Pac 12, or just a new deal is anyone’s guess right now.
Of course, FOX and the Big 10 are wildcards, but the more the numbers become available – the more I believe an attempt at a restructured deal by ESPN is on the horizon as alluded to by the UNC Chancellor recently.