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ACC Partners with ESPN

The ACC announced a linear channel would be made available in 2019 just for ACC games. But what does it really entail?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has long been the ultimate sports provider for fans across the country, and today the network formally announced that the ACC will have its own network in 2019 exclusively for conference games across all sports. ACC Commissioner John Swofford and ESPN president John Skipper looked satisfied with the deal and the direction the conference was headed. From the press release:

"ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference will launch the ACC Network -€” a comprehensive linear and digital network, it was announced today by ACC Commissioner John Swofford and ESPN President John Skipper at the conference's annual Football Kickoff media event in Charlotte, N.C. The 20-year partnership will provide ACC fans unprecedented access to live events via a comprehensive, multi-platform network. It also provides for the extension of the conference's existing rights agreement with ESPN to 2036. ESPN is the ACC's exclusive worldwide rights holder.

Beginning in August 2016, fans can access more than 600 exclusive live events from across the conference via a digital live-events channel ‘ACC Network Extra', immediately available to users who have access to ESPN3 via WatchESPN and the ESPN app, with that number growing each year.  More than 1,300 ACC events will be distributed across the platforms in 2019 when the linear network launches. "

The ACC has enjoyed some  has fielded two teams in the last three years that have gone to the National Championship game. The ACC has probably, nay, definitely been the best conference for basketball for at least the last few seasons, sending teams to the National Championship game in back-to-back years. The stat that Swofford pulled was that ACC viewership for men's basketball and football is greater than any other two conferences combined. It all sounds fantastic - until you really look at it closely.

With ESPN losing subscribers by the thousands every month, it won't be a sure thing that the ACC Network will be a behemoth in terms of profit. Don't get me wrong - as long as football, basketball, and the ACC exist, there will be revenue. But by the time the fall of 2019 rolls around, I'm not sure where ESPN will be. Swofford and Skipper contributed to the uncertainty by not giving anything away in terms of expected revenue, which you usually expect to hear in announcements like this. Undoubtedly, the conference will be better off if this deal proves to be a major success. I just think that there's a lot of questions that need to be answered before it does, and all those may not be answered for three years.