|Founded||June 19, 1979|
Rick and Dee Ray|
|Headquarters||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|United States (Nationwide)|
|Hunter Nickell (CEO)|
Number of employees
Raycom Sports is an American syndicator of sports television programs. It is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and owned and operated by Raycom Media. It was founded in 1979 by husband and wife, Rick and Dee Ray. Since its inception, it has produced and distributed football and basketball games from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) of the NCAA. It was also a distributor of games from the Southeastern, Big Eight, and Big Ten conferences, as well as the now-defunct Southwest Conference. In August 2019, Raycom Sports will officially stop its syndicated broadcasts of ACC college football and basketball seasons as the Conference and ESPN will then launch the ACC cable network.
Raycom Sports was started in July 1979 by Rick and Dee Ray in Charlotte. Rick Ray was a program manager at WCCB in Charlotte when he proposed that WCCB produce more basketball games. Ray thought that they would be very profitable for WCCB, given North Carolina's reputation as a college basketball hotbed.
Raycom first pick up the broadcast rights to Great Alaska Shootout in 1979. Ken Haines was one of the first hired for Raycom Sports. The company in its first year got Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball rights. Raycom even sold ESPN part of its early live programming in ACC basketball games. Only in 1982, Haines had Raycom offer a package of ACC basketball via cable called ACC Ticket.
In mid-1988, Raycom acquire Rasmussen Communications, thus adding the Big 10 to its broadcast rights. Raycom then extended its right with exclusivity for all non-network conference basketball games until 1995.
Raycom Radio Division was established in early July 1989 under Rick Shaw. The division pick up the operation of the University of Illinois football and basketball networks with 50 stations and Purdue sports network with 40 stations.
Partnership with Jefferson-Pilot Communications
Two years later, Raycom made what would prove to be its biggest splash when it teamed up with Jefferson-Pilot Communications to take over production of ACC basketball games. The package had begun in 1957 when Greensboro businessman C. D. Chesley piped North Carolina's run to the 1957 national title to a hastily created network of five stations across North Carolina. It proved popular enough that it expanded to a full-time package of basketball games the following season. Chesley retained the rights to ACC games until 1980, when the conference bought him out and sold the rights to MetroSports of Rockville, Maryland. Some ACC games were telecast by Raycom alone in 1980 through four or five television stations in North Carolina, including WCCB.
For the 1980-81 season, the two companies formed a joint venture, Raycom/JP Sports, that won the package after the ACC turned down Metrosports' bid to renew its contract.
Raycom also assisted ESPN2 by selling a mid-1990s Duke-Carolina basketball game that increased the channel's credibility with cable operators. Raycom had build a large array of broadcasting rights until the 1990s, with rights for ACC, SEC, Pac-10, Metro, Big Eight, Southwest and even the Big 12 conferences. At that time, Raycom had begun losing those rights, with most of them gone by the 2000s to ESPN and Fox's regional sports channels. Raycom was selling a number of the ACC basketball games to CBS, ESPN and Fox then to local stations and regional sports channels.
In 2006, the name of Raycom's partnership changed to Raycom/LF Sports, the "LF" is Lincoln Financial, the marketing name of Lincoln National Corporation, which purchased the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation that year. As a result of the purchase, Jefferson-Pilot Communications was renamed Lincoln Financial Media.
Starting in 2004, the same partnership took over production of syndicated ACC football games; Jefferson-Pilot had produced ACC football alone since September 1984. In 2007, Raycom began broadcasting the ACC men's basketball tournament in HDTV and broadcast 4 ACC men's basketball regular season games in HD in 2008.
Unlike other sports syndicators, Raycom controlled nearly all advertising for the broadcast, but paid stations for the airtime. While this was a risky strategy at first, Raycom reaped a huge windfall since ACC games frequently garnered ratings in the 20s and 30s. By a happy coincidence, the ACC's regional territory included several fast-growing markets such as Charlotte, the Piedmont Triad, the Triangle, Hampton Roads, Richmond, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
In 1994, Raycom Sports was sold to Ellis Communications, but remained autonomous, with its own headquarters in Charlotte. Dee Ray left in 1994 while Rick Ray left in 1995. When an investment group led by Retirement Systems of Alabama bought Ellis in 1996, the Raycom name was so well respected that it chose to rename the entire broadcast group Raycom Media.
Raycom senior vice president Chuck Steedman developed the Great Eight basketball festival first played on November 29–30, 1994 featuring the match up of the NCAA tournament regional finalists from the previous season.
In 2002, Raycom also founded the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte. It continued to operate the game, which later changed its name to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, until 2011, when it became the Belk Bowl.
On November 12, 2007, Raycom Media announced its intention to acquire some of the television broadcasting properties of Lincoln National Corporation's Lincoln Financial Media—three television stations, plus Lincoln Financial Sports—for $583 million. Lincoln Sports brought with it ACC and SEC college football and basketball game broadcasting rights. Lincoln Financial Sports was merged into Raycom Sports later that year.
In 2008, Raycom lost its SEC rights to ESPN, who reached a 15-year deal to become its main media rightsholder alongside CBS. Similarly to Raycom, ESPN continued to provide a syndicated package, produced via its own syndication division under the on-air branding SEC Network (this package would be discontinued in 2014 with the launch of an SEC cable network under the same name in 2014).
In 2010, ESPN acquired rights to ACC football and basketball, replacing Raycom. In a discussion between ACC commissioner John Swofford and then-ESPN president John Skipper, Swofford acknowledged Raycom's long-standing relationship with the conference, and requested that it continue to be involved in some way. ESPN ultimately negotiated a sub-licensing agreement with Raycom, which would allow it to continue producing a syndicated package of ACC football and basketball broadcasts (which, as a condition of the deal, were rebranded under the new on-air title ACC Network in 2010). Additionally, Raycom's roles were expanded, with the company being placed in charge of the conference's sponsorship sales, as well as its website and digital properties.
On July 21, 2016, ESPN announced a 20-year extension of its contract with the ACC, and the launch of an ACC Network cable channel in 2019. ESPN also acquired the secondary ACC rights previously held by Raycom.
In January 2018, Raycom Sports announced a partnership with Blizzard Entertainment to produce a weekly television program chronicling Heroes of the Dorm—the official collegiate tournament of its video game Heroes of the Storm.
- Mike Gminski analyst (2003–present)
- Dan Bonner analyst (1983–present)
- Tim Brant play-by-play (1990–present)
- Steve Martin play-by-play (1991–present)
- Dave Archer analyst (2010–present)
- Tommy Bowden analyst (2011–present)
- Tim Brant play-by-play (2008–2016)
- Steve Martin play-by-play (1991–present)
Raycom was to have produced Team Racing Auto Circuit auto racing in 2003; however, the league folded before ever actually staging any events.
In addition to college sports, Raycom had also produced preseason football showcasing various NFL teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston/Tennessee Oilers (now Tennessee Titans), the Kansas City Chiefs, and currently handles production of Carolina Panthers preseason football. Panthers preseason games have been produced by Raycom Sports since 1995. In the 2015 season, Raycom Sports also acquired rights to produce the New Orleans Saints' preseason games. Raycom Media operates the team's flagship station WVUE, which is owned by a group led by Saints owner Tom Benson.
In August 2017, Raycom, along with Tupelo-Raycom, will produce a total of fifteen (15) preseason NFL games involving the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons, and the New York Giants.
Current taped programming
- Havoline Football Saturdays in the South
- Kings of the Court
- The Great Eight basketball festival (1994-?) featuring the match up of the NCAA tournament regional finalists from the previous season first played on November 29–30, 1994. ESPN was the festival broadcast partner with presentation partner Division IA Athletic Directors Association and its CHAMPS program. The festival consisting of 2 double headers in which each team plays a single game with opponents determined randomly with the ability to opt out if selected opponent is on their schedules. The highest ranking team eliminated before the round of eight would substituted if a team is unable to play. The first year the festival was held at Palace of Auburn Hills. With Arkansas dropping out for a home game, UConn subbed in. The match ups were Florida (1-0) against BC (1-0) and Duke (2-0) against UConn (1-0), and the next night there will be the Purdue Boilers (3-0) against Missouri (1-0) and the Wildcats (2-1) against the University of Michigan Wolverines (2-1). For 1995, the early season tournament stayed at the Palace with defending national champion UCLA, North Carolina and Connecticut refusing invites and granted a special invite to Michigan State. The festival had not gotten an exemption from the NCAA cost any team attending a home game and one of its maximum season until January 1996. For 1996, the festival moved to Chicago's United Center and December with a five-year contract. Syracuse dropped out for 1996.
- Spanberg, Erik (May 12, 2016). "New Raycom CEO ready to build on success". Charlotte Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- "Raycom A Year Older And A Radio Division Larger". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. July 18, 1989. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
- Washburn, Mark (December 1, 2015). "Ken Haines, who led TV and collegiate sports into new era, retiring from Raycom Sports". The Charlotte Observer. The McClatchy Company. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Smith, Michael; Ourand, John (October 5, 2010). "History with ACC secures future for Raycom". Washington Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- "Channel 18 keeps games" (PDF). The Charlotte Observer. Knight Ridder. January 9, 1980. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Spanberg, Erik (August 4, 1997). "Raycom drawing a new game plan". Charlotte Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- Nidetz, Steve (January 6, 1994). "`Great Eight' To Match College Basketball Elite". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- Peralta, Katherine (December 5, 2016). "Belk Bowl organizers anticipate big turnout for Dec. 29 game". The Charlotte Observer. The McClatchy Company. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Malone, Michael (November 12, 2007). "Raycom Grabs Lincoln Financial Stations". Broadcasting & Cable. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
- Spranberg, Eric (August 25, 2008). "Raycom loses Southeastern Conference". Charlotte Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved April 7, 2014.
- "SEC Network Unveils Brand Campaign". Multichannel News. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Jon Solomon (August 25, 2008). "ESPN, SEC reach 15-year, $2.25 billion pact". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
- "SEC Network timeline: The conference's journey to its own television channel". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. April 15, 2013. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
- Raycom loses Southeastern Conference Charlotte Business Journal, August 25, 2008.
- "Art of the deal: How Swofford, ACC, ESPN reached agreement to launch the ACC Network". The News & Observer. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
- "ACC, ESPN announce new television deal, including launch of ACC Network". syracuse.com. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
- "ESPN-backed ACC Network launches in 2019". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
- "Heroes of the Dorm returns with new Raycom Sports broadcasting deal". InvenGlobal. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
- "Raycom Sports To Broadcast Tennessee Oilers' Preseason Games" (Press Release, July 23, 1997). Archived from the Original on May 29, 1998. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- "New Orleans Saints, Raycom Media announce partnership". New Orleans Saints. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
- "Raycom Sports and Tupelo Raycom Will Produce Preseason Games for 4 NFL Teams". Raycom Sports Retrieved April 27, 2017.
- Myslenski, Skip (November 29, 1994). "Sorry, No Cupcakes Served At Great Eight". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- Myslenski, Skip (March 26, 1996). "Chicago Gets Great (potentially) Eight Tourney". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- Tybor, Joseph (March 27, 1996). "Chicago's 1st Great Eight Already Minus 2". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
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Lincoln Financial Sports
| Syndication Rightsholder to Southeastern Conference football and men's basketball
ESPN Plus (under SEC TV branding)
| Syndication Rightsholder to Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball
(co-produced with Jefferson Pilot Sports/Lincoln Financial Sports 1982-2007)
(under ACC Network branding beginning in August 2019)
Jefferson Pilot Sports
| Syndication Rightsholder to Atlantic Coast Conference football
2005–present (produced in association with Lincoln Financial Sports 2006-2007)
(under ACC Network branding beginning in August 2019)
Lorimar Sports Network
| Syndication rights holder to Metro Conference basketball
(Metro Conference merged with Great Midwest Conference to create Conference USA)
Lorimar Sports Network
| Syndication Rightsholder to Big 10 Conference men's basketball