In SVG College Sports Summit Keynote, Clemson’s Radakovich Talks Potential ACC Network, Encourages Risk-Taking
Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich kicked off the sixth-annual SVG College Sports Summit Wednesday, as more than 550 attendees packed the Atlanta Hyatt Hotel for the first of two days of informational panels, case studies, 30-plus technology showcases, and the College Sports Media Awards ceremony.
Radakovich provided a high-level look at how the university is rapidly enhancing its in-venue and streaming-video–production facilities and also offered an update on the potential launch of an ACC Network with ESPN. While preaching the importance of up-to-date technology to drive in-venue and streaming-video productions, he had one key piece of advice for Summit attendees looking to boost the production quality of their schools’ athletics video departments: take risks.
“As we move forward with our department,” he said, “we need to make sure that we are on the cutting edge, but, while the technology and equipment are important, what is more important is the creativity that you all bring each and every day to your work — taking things to the next level, trying something different, and being a little adventurous. And the people you report to and work with will embrace that because our world continues to change and only those willing to take risks are the ones who are going to be rewarded.”
ACC Network on the Horizon
Radakovich also discussed the much rumored development of an ACC linear network with ESPN, which holds a large chunk of the ACC’s media rights after signing a restructured 14-year, $3.6 billion deal in 2012. The ACC has operated the ACC Digital Network (ACCDN) as a joint venture with Silver Chalice since 2011, featuring both live programming and original on-demand content throughout the year. However, with the impending launch of the SEC Network in August (operated by ESPN as part of a 20-year partnership), Radakovich said, the ACC plans to seriously explore a similar arrangement with ESPN in the near future.
“As we move forward, we have had substantive discussion with our partners at ESPN, which holds all of the rights to ACC athletic events,” he said. “Right now, ESPN is in the middle of their launch of the SEC Network, and, once that occurs, we are really going to begin in earnest to talk with them about an Atlantic Coast Conference network.”
Radakovich highlighted the ACC’s broad geographical footprint — which boasts the most DMAs (designated market areas) of any conference following the addition of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse over the past two years — as a prime reason that the ACC represents a desirable property for building a network.
“We have really expanded that footprint, and that is a real plus as it relates to taking our product around the country,” he said. “With 15 member schools and that large footprint, we feel like we have a really great platform to be able to become a positive investment circumstance for ESPN.”
In addition, Radakovich sees the ACC’s strong spring-season sports as major benefit to a potential network’s programming.
“As you look as some of the sports in the springtime — lacrosse, softball, baseball — the ACC has done a great job over the years,” he said. “They have the ability to be exposed in some of those times of the year when you may not have great live content with football and basketball. We have to be able to create that content that is necessary [when launching a conference network].”
Selling It to Your AD
With a ballroom full of college-video professionals seeking advice on how to persuade their respective ADs to fund venue renovations and production-facility/equipment enhancements, Radakovich provided a perspective from the opposite end of the equation.
“You have to understand the personality of the person you’re working with, so, if your athletic director is incredibly driven by dollars and cents, you need to look at how you’re going to return that investment and figure out your ROI on that piece of equipment,” he said. “Make the case as to how this piece of equipment or new twist on your department is going to create real revenue in terms of dollars and cents or how it’s going to extend the brand. Make sure that your department is doing things that you have never done before because those are things that are really going to move the needle.”
Keeping Your Venue Current
From a venue-technology perspective, Radakovich pledged to continue Clemson’s efforts to enhance fan connectivity within its venues. As the university embarks on rebuilding J.C. Littlejohn Coliseum — the 10,000-seat home to its men’s and women’s basketball teams that has extremely limited mobile connectivity — keeping fans connected will be key.
“Our fan base … is getting older, and the generation behind them — the 20- and 30-somethings — have all grown up with iPhones on their hips and iPads on their laps,” he said. “They need to feel connected in that building. We want them to continue to come to our events, but, if they can’t stay connected, it is a really convenient reason for them not to buy tickets.”
He also advises that these services not be hidden but should be out in the open so that fans can see that an effort is being made. As Clemson works with Verizon to upgrade DAS (distributed antenna service) and other next-gen technologies inside Memorial Stadium, it plans to place this efforts front and center.
“When it first started, everyone tried to hide where those distrusted antenna systems were and keep them in the background. We are going to take a different approach. We want our fans to know that we are working with our provider to provide this service. We don’t want it in the background anymore; we want it upfront.”