CHARLOTTE, N.C.—College athletics is a booming industry, with the ACC topping $400 million in revenue for its member schools during the 2014-15 year, and the rich are getting even richer.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced the league's new partnership with ESPN at a press conference Thursday morning to kick off the conference's football media days at the Westin hotel. The partnership will result in the formation of the ACC Network and its digital counterpart—the ACC Network Extra.
The network will launch in the fall of 2019, and the ACC’s men’s basketball teams will play 20 conference games beginning in the 2019-20 season to accommodate the added platform for TV exposure. The conference’s men’s basketball schedule now features 18 ACC games for each team after expanding from 16 games in 2012.
The ACC is the fourth power conference to get its own network after the SEC, the Big Ten and the Pac 12.
“This is not just a milestone. This is historic. This is a great moment for the Atlantic Coast Conference,” said Kevin White, Duke vice president and director of athletics, at the press conference. “What can we say about the ESPN? Everybody in the room knows it's not even arguable—the best in the business.”
White was the chairman of the conference’s television subcommittee made up of several ACC athletic directors, one of many extra commitments he has juggled in recent years in addition to overseeing the Blue Devils’ sports teams. He is currently on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee and the board of directors for the United States Olympic Committee.
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“Kevin deserves extra pay. He's been the chair of the television committee for five years,” Swofford said. “That was at my personal request because I felt we needed his kind of knowledge and leadership to bring continuity to this process as we brought it to conclusion. He has been, in a word, superb.”
The ACC’s agreement with ESPN will run through 2035-36, and 450 live sporting events will be broadcasted live annually on the network, including 40 football games and more than 150 men’s and women’s basketball games.
The ACC Network Extra will launch this fall and broadcast 600 live games this year available to anybody with access to ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app, with the goal of broadcasting 900 games per year by the time the television network launches in 2019.
“We try to create a model in which each of the ACC's 27 sponsored sports would be televised in some manner,” Swofford said. “I don't know if we'll get them all, as some are extremely difficult to produce for television, but by 2019, we're going to be very close.”
The deal is another example of ESPN’s continued expansion and dominance in the sports media landscape. The self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” established the SEC Network in 2014 and now has more than 10 channels in its family of networks in addition to its online content on ESPN3.
“There are no sports loyalties more important than a fan's loyalty to his or her alma mater, or simply to their adopted college team. Wolfpack Nation, the Denizens of Death Valley, Cameron Crazies—you all know what that is," ESPN President John Skipper said at the press conference. “That is why the ACC Network will be a triumph, because of the passion and commitment of its fans."