ACC and ESPN Finalize 12-year Exclusive TV Rights Agreement

The Atlantic Coast Conference and ESPN have agreed to a 12-year deal that would give the network exclusive rights to every conference-controlled football game, ACC men's and women's basketball, ACC Olympic sports, all the ACC championship games, and which will be in effect starting with the 2011-12 season and continuing through the end of the 2022-23 campaign. The new agreement will result in approximately 4,800 ACC events over the 12 years on ESPN’s television outlets, digital and mobile platforms, syndication and more. 

When asked about the financial worth of the new deal, neither ACC Commissioner John Swofford nor ESPN executive vice president for content John Skipper would comment specifically about the financial worth of the package. However, Swofford said, "I can not confirm that other than to tell you I've read some things that have been written that have been quite accurate.".

This deal, which had been previously reported to be worth $1.9-billion, or about $155 million annually, would mean a annual payout of approximately $11.9 to 12.9 million per team, depending on if the payout is split into 12 or 13 shares. While there are only 12 ACC teams, the ACC league office had reportedly always received one full share for league expenses, but whether or not that will remain in effect has not been released.

While not as lucrative as the recent $200+ million SEC TV deal with CBS, this agreement will more than double the present $67 million, or $5.6 million per team, annual payout that each ACC teams is now receiving under the current contract, will bring them one step closer to the payouts that the elite national college football teams are now receiving, and will significantly increase the ACC's national exposure and recognition.

"This is the first time at ESPN where we've done an all-in deal with a conference, where we've worked to be able to acquire all their product.  We like having football and basketball synced up. It was cordial. Early on, John and I exchanged what was important to us and we worked hard to make that work," said Skipper. 

The negotiations leading up to this final agreement have been taking place over the past 15 months. So when the changes in conference affiliations briefly shook up the college sports world recently, with realignments in the Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 10, many felt this issue might be a stumbling block and could delay the final agreement. 

Skipper said realignment was only casually discussed during the negotiations. "It's an interesting subject, but most of the details of the deal were hammered out before that came up," although the agreement reportedly includes provisions if the make-up of the conference changes during the life of the deal. 

Also, Raycom Sports will be retained and getting a new sublicense agreement as the home for non-cable and for regional games not broadcast on ESPN or any of it's affiliates.

UPDATE: Please hit the jump to read the answers from the ACC Commish and ESPN's Skipper regarding what would happen in a conference expansion scenario, the possibility of creating a ACC TV Network, the Commish's statement about the deal, and to read the full ACC/ESPN media release.

Here are a couple of exchanges regarding the possibility of changes in the number of ACC schools, or future conference expansion.

Q. If the structure of the ACC changes during the duration of the contract, if it becomes larger or smaller, how does that affect the contract? Any provisions in there about what might happen?

JOHN SKIPPER: We have in our contracts in the past and going forward always had provisions that dealt with conference realignment, conference composition clauses. This was no exception. The deal remains valid. If the conference has a different composition, the end of the day we negotiate in good faith to handle any change. Look, again, one of the reasons it didn’t come up is it’s clear that the ACC is a very sound conference, not likely to change. Most of the discussions about the conference realignment, there was very little discussion of ACC schools. As John said, they’re bound together by tradition, also bound together by academic excellence, a commitment to academic and athletic excellence. This mostly was a pretty big non-factor in this discussion.


Q. My question is, if something like that comes up in the middle of the deal, how long do you or the conference have to wait to move on any changes? In other words, do you have to wait till the end of the deal?

JOHN SKIPPER: I mean, the mechanisms in the deals allow us, and pretty much require us, to make those changes concurrent with the change in the conference lineup. In other words, I’ll just make it up. If the conference was to expand by two teams three years from now, we would be required to adjust our current deal beginning in the year in which the change happened.

COMMISSIONER SWOFFORD: The only thing I would add is any agreement we’ve had since I’ve been a part of the ACC has had that clause in it, that arrangement. Secondly, the only thing I would add, in today’s world you have to evaluate what landscape changes would mean and what a larger conference would look like. I think we all know what a 12-member conference looks like. We know that it works. I think as you get larger, it can work, but it also brings certain complications with it as well as certain benefits. You know, it’s not a stick-your-head-in-the-sand kind of thing for any of us. But that’s just part of doing due diligence. I know internally with our league, we’re very, very happy with 12 and very happy with the 12 that we are.


And here is the exchange regarding the possibility of creating our own ACC Network.

Q. What kept the conference from deciding to strike out on its own and create a network or enter into agreements with a group of broadcasters, as some other conferences have done?

COMMISSIONER SWOFFORD: I think simply the fact that ultimately we thought, all things considered, the proposal from ESPN was the best proposal for our league. That sounds simple, and it’s not simple getting there – believe me – but that’s how you ultimately evaluate it. All things considered, much of which I just mentioned, is really what comes into play. We felt that ESPN, combining our football and basketball together, gave us the best package for our schools and for our fans and for our athletes moving forward. We did do what I would call our due diligence on a network. That’s a sexy thing to talk about in this day and age. Didn’t feel that for our particular conference it was the right time or the right direction to go in. Considerable financial risk involved with that. Considerable money needed up front to make that work. You know, the Big Ten Network may turn out to be an anomaly. It’s working well for them. Each conference is a little different in terms of what we are and number of alums, population, television sets, all of that comes into play, as well as the state of the economy. You know, there’s some recent deals that were done before the economic downturn. Sometimes a part of negotiations is simply timing, that you can’t control what the economic status of the country is at that given point in time when it’s your turn.


Opening statement from ACC Commissioner John Swofford:

We’re very pleased today to officially announce that the ACC has reached an extensive multimedia agreement with ESPN for the next 12 years beginning with the 2011-2012 academic year. The new contract combines the rights for football and basketball. That’s the first time in our conference’s history that we have done so.
As I said, it’s an extensive television package that reaches new heights financially, provides unprecedented branding opportunities for us, and we think strongly positions our league within the ever-changing world of technology as we look ahead.
ACC content will now be televised more both regionally and nationally than at any point in our history. All of our 25 sponsored sports will have more visibility than ever before and there will be close to five thousand events televised over the 12-year time frame of the contract.
Distribution of revenue from the new contract will continue to be divided equally among our member institutions, equitable distribution of revenue is one of the guiding principles that this league has followed since the mid 1980s and certainly that will be the case as we move forward and our institutions will benefit tremendously from a financial standpoint from this new agreement.
Technology will continue to be ever-changing, and the ACC will greatly benefit now and in the future from ESPN’s resources and investments in these areas as well as the resources and investments from Raycom, which will continue to be involved with ESPN in this contractual agreement moving forward.
Obviously this is a terrific day for the ACC. We’re very pleased to continue the relationship with the tremendous brand that is ESPN. They are called the ‘worldwide leader in sports’ for good reason. It also continues, through ESPN, a 30-year relationship that we’ve had with Raycom that has been very productive as well.
So those relationships continue, a little different structure than in the past, a little different connection than in the past, among the three of us. But very, very exciting for the future of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and we are tremendously pleased to continue the relationship with ESPN and with Raycom.

If by some improbable chance, anyone is interested in reading a full written transcript of the press conference, click here to view.

Here is a copy of the media release.

ESPN and ACC Reach Exclusive 12-Year Agreement

Among the entities included are: ESPN, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU,, the new ESPN 3D network, ESPN Mobile TV, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FULL COURT, ESPN International, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Classic and Numerous events will be produced in high definition across ESPN HD, ABC HD, ESPN2 HD and ESPNU HD.

Additionally, through a new sublicense arrangement with ESPN, Raycom Sports will continue its long-standing position as the syndication home of ACC content for over-the-air and regional cable network distribution in the ACC market and beyond. Raycom Sports will also continue to manage the ACC’s official corporate partner program and the exploitation of its digital assets, including, the official conference web site.

ESPN has been televising ACC content since the first year of the network in 1979-80. Highlights of the new agreement include:

  • Football on national TV: Regular-season action on Saturday afternoon and nights, primetime Thursdays, Labor Day Monday and the ACC Football Championship Game;
  • Men’s basketball on national TV: The most games ever across the ESPN networks, highlighted by both regular-season matchups of the storied Duke-North Carolina rivalry each year; for the first time, full national telecasts on all games televised on an ESPN platform (had been local market blackouts on handful of telecasts); a new weekly Sunday franchise on ESPNU; every regular-season intra-conference game and the entire conference tournament produced and distributed via ESPN and Raycom Sports; 
  • Women’s basketball: A record number of women’s regular-season basketball games and the addition of the entire conference tournament; 
  • Olympic sports: An expanded commitment to the league’s 22-sponsored Olympic sports with regular-season and championship telecasts, highlighted by baseball, softball, lacrosse, and men’s and women’s soccer;
  • Syndication: Syndication rights for ACC football, basketball and Olympic sports action for over-the-air and regional cable network distribution in ACC markets and beyond via an agreement with Raycom Sports and through potential sublicense agreements with other national outlets;
  • Digital media: Exclusive ACC football, men’s and women’s basketball, and Olympic sports games as well as simulcasts on Live ACC games, including football and basketball, on ESPN Mobile TV;
  • ESPN 3D: Live ACC action on ESPN 3D, ESPN’s newest network and the first 3D network to launch in the industry; 
  • Additional outlets: ACC action on ESPN International, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FULL COURT, ESPN Classic and ESPN Deportes; and extensive content rights for

"Some of ESPN’s most memorable moments have featured the ACC and we’re proud to extend our long-term relationship with this great conference and Raycom," Bodenheimer said.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said, "We are excited to be continuing our partnership with ESPN and Raycom Sports. This agreement allows our schools to reach significantly new financial heights while also showcasing more ACC content and coverage than ever before across traditional and new media platforms."

"We are very excited to continue our 30 year partnership with the ACC and ESPN," said Ken Haines, President and CEO of Raycom Sports. "Throughout the ever-changing landscape of sports television, we have always prided ourselves on the long term relationships we have with both the ACC and ESPN."

Following are the key details of the new agreement:

With exclusive rights to every conference-controlled football game, ESPN will serve as the national cable and broadcast TV home for the conference and distributor of syndication telecasts via an agreement with Raycom Sports. With the agreement granting rights to every matchup, there is flexibility where games can be distributed on a weekly basis throughout the season. Outlets will include: 

ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC: The networks will televise ACC games each week, including Thursday, Saturday and a Labor Day Monday telecast each season. The ACC Football Championship Game will continue to be televised each year on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.
ESPNU: The 24-hour college sports network, currently distributed in more than 70 million households, will continue to televise ACC football.
Syndication: ESPN will sublicense games to Raycom Sports and potentially to additional national outlets. As part of the agreement, Raycom Sports will produce and distribute a package of games for over-the-air syndication and for the first time, an additional package of games through regional cable syndication in the ACC markets and beyond. Exclusive ACC game presentations as well as simulcasts will be offered on the broadband network.
ESPN 3D: ACC matchups will be part of the live schedule of games offered on the new service.
ESPN Mobile TV: Extensive ACC content, including highlights and live game simulcasts will be presented on mobile phones.
ESPN International and ESPN Deportes: The deal includes global rights to present live games and encore presentations across ESPN’s International platforms and domestic Spanish-language rights for ESPN Deportes, ESPN’s 24-hour, U.S.-based network.
ESPN GamePlan: The out-of-market college football service will continue to offer an extensive weekly schedule of ACC games.
ESPN Classic: The network may televise live ACC games as well as historic and immediate encore presentations. Extensive ACC content, including highlights, will be presented online.

Men’s Basketball
As the exclusive rightsholder to all conference-controlled men’s basketball games, ESPN will offer more ACC men’s basketball than ever before, including every intra-conference matchup and an extensive schedule of inter-conference action on one of its platforms or through sublicense agreements with Raycom Sports or other national outlets. The deal also includes the continuation of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge event. Similar to football, as a result of the acquisition of exclusive men’s basketball rights, there is flexibility where games can be distributed. Outlets will include: 

ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU: The networks will combine to offer numerous intra-conference games, highlighted by top showdowns, including both Duke-North Carolina contests, plus several conference controlled inter-conference matchups with no blackouts (the previous agreement included select blackouts in the ACC market). Highlighting the schedule will be a new weekly ESPNU Sunday telecast and the continuation of ACC action on ESPN’s Super TuesdayWednesday Night HoopsThursday Night Showcase and Saturdays. ESPN will also retain the rights to all ACC Tournament games for distribution across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU (with no blackouts).
Syndication: Similar to football, ESPN will sublicense games to Raycom Sports and potentially to additional national outlets. As part of the agreement, Raycom Sports will produce and distribute a significant package of intra-conference games through over-the-air syndication and a series of matchups through regional cable networks. Exclusive ACC game presentations as well as simulcasts will be offered on the broadband network.
ESPN 3D: ACC matchups will be part of the live schedule of games offered on the new service.
ESPN Mobile TV: Extensive ACC content, including highlights and live game simulcasts will be presented on mobile phones.
ESPN International and ESPN Deportes: The deal includes global rights to present live games and encore presentations across ESPN’s International platforms and domestic Spanish-language rights for ESPN Deportes, ESPN’s 24-hour, U.S.-based network.
ESPN FULL COURT: The out-of-market college basketball service will offer extensive weekly coverage of the ACC.
ESPN Classic: The network may telecast live ACC games as well as historic and immediate encore presentations. Extensive ACC content, including highlights, will be presented online. 

Women’s Basketball
ESPN will expand its coverage of regular-season women’s basketball across its platforms and televise the conference semifinals and championship for the first time on an ESPN network. In addition, ESPN will sublicense games to Raycom Sports.

ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU: ACC teams will appear on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. In addition, ESPN will acquire the rights to the women’s conference championship game for coverage on ESPN or ESPN2, while the semifinals will be aired on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. Exclusive ACC game presentations as well as simulcasts will be offered on the broadband network.
Syndication: Through an agreement with ESPN, Raycom Sports will produce and distribute a series of regular-season games and all early rounds of the conference tournament to regional cable networks. 

Olympic Sports
ESPN will televise more of the 22 ACC-sponsored Olympic sports than ever before, increasing its coverage to include regular-season and conference championship events.

ESPN and ESPN2: The networks will have first selection of regular-season events each year (events are to be determined).
ESPNU: A package of regular-season events will be televised annually, highlighted by lacrosse, baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer and others. Numerous, exclusive regular-season events plus simulcasts will be offered annually, including lacrosse, baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, and others.
Championships: ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU will televise the conference championship games in softball and baseball while ESPNU will offer the men’s lacrosse semifinals and championship, and men’s and women’s soccer championship matchups. Other championships may be selected for ESPN platforms or distributed by Raycom Sports to regional cable networks. 

ESPN, Inc.
ESPN, Inc. is the world’s leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company featuring a portfolio of over 50 multimedia sports assets. The company is comprised of six domestic television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic & ESPN Deportes), ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU & ESPNEWS HD simulcast services, ESPN Regional Television, ESPN International (46 networks, syndication, radio, web sites), ESPN Radio,, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Enterprises, ESPN PPV, ESPN Zones (sports-themed restaurants), and other growing new businesses including (Broadband, formerly, ESPN Mobile Properties, ESPN on Demand and ESPN Interactive.  Based in Bristol, Conn., ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.  The Hearst Corporation holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, now in its 58th year of competition, is one of the strongest and most competitive intercollegiate athletics conferences in the country.  The ACC sponsors competition in 25 sports for its 12 member institutions: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.  Since the league’s inception in 1953, ACC schools have captured 120 national championships, including 64 in women’s competition and 56 in men’s. In addition, NCAA individual titles have gone to ACC student-athletes 130 times in men’s competition and 91 times in women’s action. 

Raycom Sports
Raycom Sports is a leading independent sports sales & marketing, syndication, event management and production firm. Raycom is the current television rightsholder of ACC men's basketball and syndicated football telecasts through 2011. Raycom Sports' parent company Raycom Media, located in Montgomery, AL, owns and operates 39 television stations covering over 12 percent of the United States across 18 states.

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