ACC makes it official as it announces plans for a new network with ESPN

By Jim O'Neill on Jul 21 2016 at 10:30 AM

Add the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to the lineup of sports college athletic conferences with their own networks. The ACC announced it signed a 20-year agreement with the sportscaster that will kick off on the linear side by August of 2019.

But, starting next month, fans will have access to more than 600 live events from the conference via its streaming portal, “ACC Network Extra.” The ACC said more than 1,300 ACC events will be distributed across the platforms in 2019 when the linear network launches.

The bad news? You’ll have to be an authenticated pay-TV subscriber with access to ESPN3 via WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

At least for now. A number of virtual MSOs, like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue also give you access to ESPN and other college sports nets, like the SEC, and the likelihood of having ACC content will increase as the number of virtual pay-TV offerings increases, as it will. Tech giants Google and Apple, for example, are rumored to have VMSOs in the works.

The deal with ESPN also adds a little glue to the ACCs conference structure. Schools that decide to leave to join another conference, as has been all the rage recently, would do so without media rights for all home games, which the ACC will have for the next two decades.

"As we thought about our media future, it was important to us that we take advantage of an emerging distribution technology," said ACC commissioner John Swafford in making the announcement this morning at the conference's annual football media day in Charlotte. "ESPN's leadership position in this space will benefit all of our sponsored sports."

The ACC's new grant of rights also automatically extends Notre Dame's contract with the conference as a member in all sports but football through 2035-36, a source said. If the Irish forgo football independence in the next 20 years, they will be contracted to join the ACC.

The deal also will prompt the ACC to increase the number of conference basketball games to 20 by 2019, giving the new network more content.

"The ACC is a great conference, and this increases the national exposure, brings in additional revenue and offers greater opportunity for student-athletes," Clemson president Jim Clements said. "For us and the Florida States and others, it stabilizes the conference long term."

The ACC joins The Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Southeastern Conference in launching its own sports network. The University of Texas also has its own network, the Longhorn Network, which along with the SEC is part of ESPN.

Stay tuned.

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