ACC, ESPN 12-Year Deal Adds 'Stability' to League
Under the terms of the contract, which begins with the 2011-12 school year, ESPN receives the rights to both of the Duke-North Carolina men's basketball games, as well as the ability to air ACC games within the conference region. The deal also gives ESPN the rights to air league football games in a variety of windows, as well as expanding the number of baseball and women's basketball games.
The two sides announced the long-rumored deal Thursday, and while neither party would put a price tag on the package, previous reports estimated the amount as $1.86 billion over the 12 years. John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president for content, said the deal marked the first time that ESPN had received rights to all of a conference's content.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said contract negotiations began long before the recent spate of rumored defections of schools to other conferences and there is language in the ESPN deal to cover potential expansion/contraction.
In the end, while the Big 12 lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-10, the ACC remained intact, despite rumors that Maryland might leap to the Big Ten or that Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson were considering leaving the league for the SEC.
"I think [this contract] enhances that stability," said Swofford. "We have a group of schools that are together for multiple reasons, not just financial, although financial is one of them. But they're together because they've chosen to be together. They believe in the same kind of values that they want within a conference, tangible and intangible. It's certainly important that the business aspect, the financial impact of institutional membership in a conference is solid and this certainly solidifies that for this conference for the next 12 years."
The deal gives ESPN and its outlets the right to air more men's basketball games than ever, including both games between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils for the first time ever. ESPN also will no longer have to blackout its ACC games within the ACC market. The Sunday package of games that has aired on Fox Sports Net may move to ESPNU, and Swofford said those games will tip off earlier than they have.
Additionally, ESPN has rights to football games on Saturday afternoons and nights, as well as in prime time on Thursdays. The channel will also carry a Labor Day game and the conference championship contest. ESPN will also carry the entire women's basketball tournament on one of its channels, and will air more baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer games as well.