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ACC, ESPN extend deal to 2036 that includes new ACC Network
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ACC Commissioner John Swofford announces an ACC/ESPN Network during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte on Thursday. - photo by Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Atlantic Coast Conference finally is getting its own TV channel.

Commissioner John Swofford said Thursday the ACC Network will launch in August 2019 as part of an extended media deal with ESPN that now runs through the 2035-36 season.

Speaking at his annual forum during the ACC Kickoff media days, Swofford said there will also be the creation of a digital channel that will be online next month. The league will move to a 20-game league schedule in men's basketball by 2019, part of an effort to boost the 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 since schools that go elsewhere wouldn't bring along their own media rights to enhance the TV package for a new conference home, said Dean Jordan, a global media managing executive with the Wasserman media group who represented the ACC in negotiations with ESPN.

The league typically receives and then distributes the media-rights revenues to member schools. In a hypothetical case, Jordan said, the ACC would keep the revenue for a team's home football game as the rights holder even if that team was playing in another league, then divide the departed school's amount among the remaining ACC schools.

The ACC 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.

Swofford wouldn't comment afterward on the payouts to league schools with the creation of the ACC Network other than to say the rights fees "obviously go up" with the deal.

The ACC will become the fourth major conference with its own network, joining the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference. The SEC also has ESPN as its partner and launched in August 2014.

As an example of the work ahead of the ACC Network's launch, North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow said the school has committed to spending roughly $6 million for a broadcast studio at the football stadium as well as for a control room at newly renovated Reynolds Coliseum on campus to eventually help produce content.

"We have to make sure we continue to keep up with (the other power conferences) and be in a strong position there to compete nationally," Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said Thursday.

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."