What is the latest news regarding where the ACC’s TV contracts stand?
John Swofford: We’re entering a period through the spring which will be an informal contractual negotiating period with our current rights holders. We have been talking with them to a degree for a while. There’s nothing imminent at this point, but a lot of the foundation has been laid for negotiations coming up. We’re in a situation where we feel like we need to step back and look at all possibilities in terms of how the next agreement is structured as well as take a look at all potential formats and distribution methods. One of the things is with new media, and trying to figure out how the different new platform opportunities can be monetized and what will be best for our particular league. We have the opportunity to consolidate our football and basketball, which we have not done historically in this league. We separated the two, but we set them up purposely so the contracts would end simultaneously this time around so we could connect the two should we desire to do so.
When does the contract actually end?
JS: We’ve got one more year with current contracts. Raycom has all of our basketball rights and they have the syndicated football package and ESPN has the rest of our football. That’s who our discussions will be with by contract first, and then we’ll have to make a decision whether to take it to the marketplace and talk with others at the end of that contractual negotiating period, which would be the end of April.
How much does what the SEC did with its contract and the Big Ten Network, how much did what those conferences do weigh into what you want to do?
JS: Every negotiation has its own circumstances and its own timing. Those two conferences, their models are very different. Hopefully there are some things we can learn from both of them. The circumstances and the timing are quite different, first the Big Ten and then the SEC, while taking very different approaches, they both occurred before the difficult economic downturn that came into play. Sometimes the simple timing of your negations ultimately have a lot to do with how they turn out. We’ll see. I think we’ve got an excellent brand, and now with markets running the entire East coast, from Boston to South Florida, I think we’re well-positioned. Hopefully they’ll turn out well, and we’re confident they will.
What are some of the hot topics you’ll be addressing at this year’s spring meetings?
JS: Obviously in the spring the hottest topic for us will be the new television agreements and what those bring in terms of distribution and potential new methodology and distribution platforms, and what if any changes it brings in terms of scheduling. I don’t think it will bring anything particularly different. I think our focus in both football and basketball through the spring is going to be new media discussions and contracts, as well as the transition of the championship game to Charlotte.
What’s the most difficult part of being the ACC commissioner?
JS: The biggest challenges for any conference are membership decisions such as expansion and revenue distribution. We’re very settled as a conference in regards to both of those right now. With expansion being five years old and our basic fundamental aspects of revenue distribution in this league are that we share equally after expenses, and I think that fundamental philosophy has served our league extremely well and has had a lot to do with the development of the culture in this league in terms of supporting each other. Things are relatively calm in regards to both of those issues that I think are the most challenging. On an ongoing basis, it’s trying to maximize revenue for the schools and building consensus, which is a lot of what a commissioner is charged with doing. We’ve got a group of schools that are very competitive, but are also very cooperative and have a sense of the big picture and a sense of what’s best for the whole over the long run is also best for the individual institutions. Our people tend to understand that. It’s a very important part of what the conference office is charged with doing, in building that kind of consensus.