Ken Haines covered a wide range of topics, from the close call in Raycom Sports’ first Atlantic Coast Conference telecast to watching television revenue transform college football into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Haines, president and CEO of Raycom Sports, spoke at the Mount Airy Rotary Club’s meeting on Tuesday at Cross Creek Country Club.
“It’s a big money game,” Haines said.
The ACC and ESPN have a television rights deal through the 2026-27 sports season that is reportedly worth $3.6 billion. Each full-member school gets an average of $17.1 million.
In its first fiscal year with Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the conference, the ACC ramped up its revenue by more than $56 million, according to ESPN.com — raking in a conference record total of $291.7 million in total revenue. ESPN will reportedly pay $80 million to broadcast the 2015 Rose Bowl.
A member at the Rotary Club asked Haines where he would rank the top media companies. Haines responded with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Raycom Sports, FoxSportsSouth, and ESPN3.
Charlotte-based Raycom Sports holds the ACC digital rights and syndicated TV rights of ACC men’s basketball and football telecasts through 2027.
Some fans don’t care for the newly-expanded ACC, which sits at 15 schools with the addition of Louisville this season. Football teams can’t play each other every season, and all the basketball teams can’t have home/away series with each other either. The landscape of the ACC currently stretches from Miami Beach to the Boston Harbor.
“They did the right thing in expanding,” Haines said. “They had to.”
With the addition of Louisville, ACC football games syndicated by Raycom Sports will reach close to 80 percent of the U.S. this fall, covering more than 90 million television households.
Haines recalled the first ACC basketball telecast (Virginia at Duke) on Raycom on Dec. 8, 1982. Haines was the new president of Raycom/Jefferson Pilot, which had just secured the television rights from C.D. Chelsey.
Because of a breaking national news story, the game almost didn’t make it on the air.
Earlier in the day, Norman Mayer had threatened to blow up the Washington Monument. A lengthy standoff ended with gunshots, and police found no explosives. CBS news coverage wrapped up just minutes before the ACC contest.
“That’s how close we came,” said Haines.
The CEO recalled how he was approached by ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen about starting a 24-hour sports network back in the late 1970s.
“I said, ‘I’m not sure that’s something we really want to get involved in. Good luck to you,’” said Haines with a chuckle. “That was probably the biggest blunder of my professional career. I wouldn’t be here today. I’d be on some island somewhere. I said, ‘No, that’s not going to work.”
Since 1982, Haines has been a part of many different facets of Raycom’s operation, particularly product acquisition and contract negotiations with colleges, athletic conferences and television networks. He has negotiatied contracts with the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10, Big Eight, Southwest and Metro conferences, as well as CBS, ESPN, Fox and ABC.
Florida State comes into the season as the defending national champion, which has generated a lot of buzz surrounding the ACC with football season approaching.
“Everybody talks about No. 1,” Haines said. “You win a national championship, it’s impactful. The SEC, to their credit won a bunch of national titles. Credit to FSU for doing that. There’s a lot of talk, can they repeat, who can challenge them?…”
The bigger the buzz, the bigger the TV audience.