Friday, September 11, 2009

ACC wins TV ratings

Give the schedule makers in the ACC office some credit.

At a time when news of the SEC's giant TV package is dominating the college sports landscape, ACC officials landed four huge national television opportunities for the conference in the first eight days of the football season.

ESPN had N.C. State vs. South Carolina to kick off the season on Sept. 3; Miami at Florida State on Labor Day (Sept. 7), and Clemson at Georgia Tech on Thursday night.

ABC's big opening Saturday night broadcast featured Virginia Tech vs. Alabama at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

According to ESPN, it was a successful opening week in terms of the ratings. Miami-Florida State was ESPN's second-most-viewed college football game ever, with a 5.9 rating, 5.8 million households and 8.4 million viewers. The Florida State-Miami Labor Day game from 2006, with a 6.9 rating, holds ESPN's record.

The ABC game delivered a 4.2 rating (up 17 percent from last year's Clemson-Alabama game), winning the night for all networks.

These are good numbers for the ACC, which now has some standing to take them to the bargaining table and ask for some more money as its broadcast rights negotiations get under way.

As for the results, two things are clear. In head-to-head matchups with the SEC, N.C. State and Virginia Tech failed to deliver a win, and that will hurt the ACC's image. The ACC overcame a similar early-season deficit with a strong finish last season, but the league missed out on a huge opportunity in those two games (and suffered a damaging blow when Duke and Virginia lost to Football Championship Series schools Richmond and William & Mary, respectively).

Also, with Miami winning at Florida State and Georgia Tech edging Clemson, the Coastal Division (as expected) seems stronger at the top than the Atlantic. Locally that's bad news for North Carolina and good news for N.C. State in their quests for ACC division titles.

In the final analysis, the ACC should get a lot of credit for scheduling so many meaningful games over the first eight days of the season and getting them on national television. But for the ACC to take the next step and become a respected conference, its teams need to win some of these games.

Ken Tysiac