It’s always about the money. That’s been made evidently clear by the NCAA in our experience dealing with the Indianapolis crew and the offseason news. So let’s have this conversation on those terms.
Gray Television Inc. completed a purchase/merger/corporate marriage with Raycom Media and their properties. This includes Raycom Sports, which Syracuse Orange fans should recognize as the distributor of most of the ACC Network games to date. With this deal, the two companies will combine to form a network that stretches down the Atlantic Coast and into the Midwest (and well beyond). They’ll be the third-largest TV owner in the country.
Why are we writing about this? A few reasons:
- Shortly before this story broke, Awful Announcing reported that each B1G School got a B1G Network check of $51 million. This increasing pot is due to the widespread distribution of the B1G Network and it’s increasing value to cable subscribers. The Gray/Raycom merger means more ACC distribution across the country, which should mean more money coming back to schools in a couple years.
- For cord-cutting millennials like myself, I have been eagerly awaiting colleges to catch up to professional leagues (MLB, NFL via DIRECTV, NBA) and create an all-access streaming product. The B1G news seems to indicate that the cable money bubble is still growing, deterring any push for such an over-the-top (OTT) platform.
- Raycom owns syndicated rights to select ACC games through 2027. That list shrinks over time as the inventory comes under the ESPN-operated ACC Network umbrella. But there will probably be Syracuse-related games on Raycom networks for the next decade.
- As you can see on the map above, neither Gray nor Raycom is in New York (or surrounding Pennsylvania and New Jersey) right now. That potentially changes with the increased bargaining power that this merger brings.
Again, we still don’t know what the plan for ACC Network rollout is with ESPN and the eventual role ESPN+ (which will feature college sports programming — including football — this fall) plays in all this. But sports is carrying the live media industry right now, and it’s buoying college athletics in kind.
Current estimates place the ACC Network boost for member schools to at least $10 million right now, which places the league third in total revenues behind the behemoths that are the SEC and Big Ten. That doesn’t meant every program is suddenly a football factory. But that extra cash likely leads to further improvements to the football product, fan experience and more for every school — including Syracuse.
Raycom’s long been a partner of the ACC (since 1982), and there’s enough #synergy there to keep that relationship going even past the 2027 date, depending on contracts and what ESPN allows. One could assume that’s almost being banked on by Gray here, too. Those syndicated ACC games have kept Raycom relevant and ultimately add to its value.
So while this may not have any immediate impact on Syracuse, the long-term gain has potential. SU will now be seen in more households across the country, along with the rest of the ACC. Until Gray/Raycom ends up in New York, however, that could still mean digital-only broadcasts for some basketball and football games as the ACC Network gets up and running.