ESPN is preparing to launch an ACC Network in August 2019, which will give ESPN extended rights to the conference through 2036.
ESPN confirmed the network in a release on Thursday after Brett McMurphy of ESPN reported the news July 18 and indicated if the Notre Dame Fighting Irish decide to join a football conference before 2036, it would have to be the ACC in light of the new network launch.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford spoke about the agreement:
John Ourand and Michael Smith of SportsBusiness Journal provided further context:
This forthcoming network figures to tighten ESPN's grip on the Power Five conferences and big-time college athletic programs if successful.
ESPN already owns the SEC Network and Longhorn Network, with the latter being a 24-hour cycle dedicated solely to University of Texas sports.
Clay Travis of Fox Sports 1 didn't express much optimism that the ACC Network will thrive:
Considering there's a lengthy period of time before the network is launched, ESPN has plenty of planning to do. Much can be learned from the profitable SEC Network.
As CBS Sports' Jon Solomon reported in January, the SEC enjoyed a 62 percent revenue increase from its previous year as it raked in $527.4 million in 2014-15. It marked the first year of the SEC Network and College Football Playoff, which were credited as primary sources for the massive increase.
Although the SEC is a stronger college football brand, the ACC boasts high-end basketball programs such as Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Syracuse, among others.
Specialized coverage from the ACC Network, pooled with ESPN's resources, could raise interest in the college basketball regular season. That could make waves on the college hoops landscape, which is heavily reliant on the thrilling annual entertainment of the NCAA tournament.
If the ACC Network's impact in 2019-20 is similar to that of the SEC Network, ESPN's new venture would be well on its way to flourishing.