Announced at the ACC Football Media Days, ESPN and Atlantic Coast Conference will be partners on the ACC Network to premiere in 2019. In the interim between now and 2019, ESPN and the ACC will launch “ACC Network Extra,” which will stream 600 live events a year through the WatchESPN app. And as we first noted earlier this week, ESPN has extended its rights agreement with the ACC through 2036, a 20-year contract extension.
Let’s talk about the TV network. As mentioned, it will begin in 2019 when ESPN can renegotiate its cable and satellite provider contracts. ESPN will bundle the ACC Network with its existing Family of Networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Classic, Longhorn Network, SEC Network) to ensure a smooth launch in the conference footprint and across the country.
The linear network will air some 450 exclusive events including 40 regular-season football games, 150 men’s and women’s basketball, more than 200 regular-season and tournament games in the conference’s 27 sports. In addition, the ACC Network will provide a host of news and information shows plus original programming (think something similar to “SEC Storied” which airs on both ESPN and SEC Network).
The ACC Network had been something the ACC had been yearning for since it signed its original contract with ESPN in 2011. According to announcer Wes Durham, the ACC was in line for a $45 million payment from ESPN had the concept for a cable ACC Network not been in place by July 1 of this year. But with today’s television landscape with cord cutting and skinny bundles, observers wondered the ACC had been too late to launch the network.
But as talks got closer to bring the linear network to fruition, both ESPN and the league got optimistic that it would happen and now it has. The question is what will the television landscape look like in 2019 and will how different will we watch sports as compared to now? When the SEC Network launched in 2014, ESPN was in more homes and there future was very still bright for cable. But two years later, things are very much different and people want to watch at their convenience.
So while the ACC will reap the riches from ESPN from rights fees, how we watch the ACC Network and could be very much different than how we watch now.