How much could an ACC-Big Ten-Pac-12 alliance be worth?
Last night, news broke that the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are in discussions about forming an alliance.
Details are sparse right now, but it seems that this alliance has a lot to do with those conference’s 41 schools banding together when it comes to voting on topics like the College Football Playoff, NIL rules and scholarship limits. It’s a way to keep the expanded SEC from being the most powerful voice in the room.
But, ultimately, this alliance will also be about closing the revenue gap with the SEC, which just signed a deal with ESPN worth $300 million per year — and that was before the league added Oklahoma and Texas.
So just how much revenue can the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 make from a scheduling alliance? As usual, only the suits at TV networks know that answer for sure. But we can use the current TV deals to get a ballpark estimate.
Calculating an (oversimplified) valuation for a football scheduling alliance
Right now, the Big Ten’s deals are worth $440 million annually and the Pac-12’s deal is worth $277 million annually. Both of those expire in 2024 and the next deals will likely be worth even more. The ACC, meanwhile is stuck in a deal worth $240 million annually that runs through 2036.
By dividing those numbers by the number of football games played in each league, per year, the Big Ten’s deals are worth $4.19 million per game, the Pac-12’s deal is worth $3.01 million per game, and the ACC’s deal is worth $2.14 million per game. The average worth of a game played by these three conferences comes out to $3.12 million.
We don’t know how a scheduling alliance between these conferences would look for football, but let’s say each team in each conference plays one team from each of the other conferences. That creates 38 games (14 Big Ten-ACC games, 12 Big Ten-Pac-12 games and 12 ACC-Pac-12 games).
When you multiply 38 games by the average worth of a game, you get an alliance worth $118.5 million annually.
That money then gets split among the 40 teams in these conferences (I’m not including Notre Dame, which has its own TV deal). That comes out to $2.96 million per school.
That’s decent money — and these match-ups will surely drive better home attendance and game revenue than cupcake games against FCS schools — but it’s still going to leave those conferences lagging behind the SEC.
How could these leagues add even more value?
The valuation above keeps things simple by just focusing on football. Men’s basketball obviously plays a role in these deals, so the deal described above would have to include a good amount of men’s basketball inventory.
Sticking with football, though, there are a couple ways the league could juice the value.
The biggest would be to let the TV networks create a few marquee match-ups each year. Think Ohio State-Clemson, Michigan-USC, Miami-Oregon, etc.
Another would be to permanently bring back some old rivalry games like Penn State-Pitt, Nebraska-Colorado, Maryland-Virginia, etc.
Getting Notre Dame involved would also drive up the price, though it would add another team to split the pot with.
It’s difficult to quantify just how much any of those ideas could add to the value, but it could conceivably push each school’s cut above the $3 million mark.
One other bold way an alliance could increase TV revenue would be if those three leagues banded together and sold all of their TV rights as one package.
Right now, these leagues compete against each other for TV deals, which actually keeps the prices down. Part of the reason the NFL’s deals are worth an absurd $7.5 billion is that it’s not competing with another pro football league. It owns every single game and can pit the major networks against each other and create different deals with each one.
If the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 went to market as one giant package, they could drive up the price and split up the content the same way. The risk for those conferences, though, is that the networks that sign on might just always pick Big Ten games for their best viewing windows. The Big Ten would want a bigger cut than the other two conferences, and the Pac-12 and ACC would want more exposure.
There’s also the issue of timing. The Big Ten and Pac-12 deals happen to end at the same time, so they could conceivably band together and sell their rights as one package.
But the ACC deal doesn’t expire for another 15 years, and ripping up that deal might also mean ripping up the grant of right agreement that is holding the conference together. That would open the door for Clemson and Florida State to actually reach out to the SEC if they so desired.
There are a whole bunch of ways this alliance can shake out. But from a revenue perspective, the most-likely scenario probably only puts a few million bucks in each school’s coffer.