Charlotte, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford said Thursday the league has extended its media deal with ESPN through the 2035-36 season, which includes the eventual launch of an ACC TV channel.
Speaking at his annual forum during the ACC Kickoff media days, Swofford said the ACC Network is scheduled to launch in August 2019. There will also be the creation of a digital channel that will be online next month.
Swofford said the league will move to a 20-game league schedule in men’s basketball by 2019, part of an effort to boost the amount of available content toward the goal of airing more than 1,300 events annually through those outlets.
“It was also very important to both ESPN and our league that 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 other major TV news was about the media rights schools would leave behind if they left the ACC.
Swofford said league schools unanimously extended a grant-of-rights provision that gives the ACC control of media rights — and more importantly, the money that comes with them — for any school that choses to leave the conference for the duration of the ESPN deal.
It’s a move designed to ensure the stability of the league, which first announced a grant-of-rights arrangement with its schools in 2013 after Maryland announced it would leave for the Big Ten. That deal with ESPN originally ran through the 2026-27 season.
The ACC will become the fourth major conference with its own network, joining the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. The SEC also has ESPN as its partner and launched in August 2014.
The digital channel will be available to authenticated subscribers via ESPN’s online apps, which means viewers will have to first provide the usernames and passwords they use to log into the online accounts for their cable or satellite television providers.
The creation of an ACC-specific channel has been a frequent off-field topic of discussion for the league since realignment slowed throughout college sports. The league has spent years researching the possibility, with Swofford frequently deflecting questions about it with answers that offered little other than it was something the league was looking into.
On Thursday morning, however, Swofford was ready to talk in detail about the subject with ESPN president John Skipper joining him on stage with ACC coaches and administrators for an announcement that took over his annual state-of-the-league forum.
“Some of you may be disappointed that I’m not going to be able to do the dance that I’ve done the last couple of years, Swofford quipped, “dancing around some questions about television.”