ESPN Nabs ACC Broadcast Rights for $1.9 Billion

ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference on Thursday announced they have reached a 12-year agreement that gives the sports giant exclusive rights to broadcast all ACC football and men’s and women’s basketball games, plus 22 other collegiate sports (i.e. lacrosse and softball) and conference championships.

Effective the 2011-12 academic year, the pact extends through spring 2023.

Word of the deal first began circulating in May, with sources close to the negotiations saying the package was worth some $155 million-$160 million per year, for a grand total of some $1.9 billion. At the time, ESPN was said to have upped its original bid by as much as 30 percent, or $40 million per year, as it looked to muscle out a determined Fox Sports.

Financial terms were not disclosed, although ACC commissioner John Swofford said the member schools will earn “more than double the television revenue that they had been receiving in the past.” Sources indicated that earlier estimates on pricing are in line with the numbers on the contract.

ESPN in the spring emphatically denied that any such deal had been brokered. Now that the requisite i’s have been dotted, ESPN has the rights to approximately 4,800 ACC events over the next dozen years, including marquee matchups like the Battle of Tobacco Road (i.e., the annual University of North Carolina vs. Duke basketball game) and regional pigskin grudge matches (Florida St.-Miami, Clemson-South Carolina, Clemson-Georgia Tech).

The deal covers each entity in Bristol’s vast media portfolio, including: the franchise network, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3.com, the new ESPN 3D network, ESPN Mobile TV, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN Full Court, ESPN International, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Classic and ESPN.com.


Per terms of the deal, Charlotte, N.C.-based Raycom Sports will continue to syndicate ACC content for local broadcast and RSN distribution in the conference’s 12 home markets. In other words, ACC games will not be blacked out in local markets.

“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,” said George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN and ABC Sports, by way of announcing the deal.

The marriage of ESPN and the ACC promises to be particularly felicitous for John Skipper. ESPN’s executive vp, content, is a North Carolina alum.

With the new contract in hand, the ACC is now one of the NCAA’s most richly compensated athletic conferences, trailing only the Big 10 (approximately $240 million per year) and the SEC ($200 million annually). ESPN’s rights deal with the Big 10 expires in 2016; the SEC in 2008 finalized separate 15-year agreements with Bristol and CBS.

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