ESPN, ACC ink $1.9 billion deal

12-year deal includes rights to football, basketball games

NEW YORK -- ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference have reached a 12-year agreement that gives the sports network exclusive rights to broadcast all ACC football and men's and women's basketball games, plus 22 other collegiate sports 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 $155 million-$160 million a year for a total approaching $1.9 billion. At the time, ESPN was said to have upped its original bid by as much as 30%, or $40 million per year, as it looked to muscle out 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 Thursday that earlier estimates on pricing are in line with the numbers on the contract.

ESPN this spring emphatically denied that any such deal had been brokered. Now that the requisite i's have been dotted, ESPN has the rights to about 4,800 ACC events over the next dozen years, including marquee matchups like North Carolina-Duke basketball, regional football grudge matches like Florida State vs. Miami and games in other sports like lacrosse and softball.

The deal covers each entity in ESPN'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.

Charlotte-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 of ESPN and ABC Sports.

The ACC is now one of the NCAA's most richly compensated athletic conferences, trailing only the Big Ten (about $240 million per year) and the SEC ($200 million annually). ESPN's rights deal with the Big Ten expires in 2016; the SEC in 2008 finalized separate 15-year agreements with ESPN and CBS.

Anthony Crupi is senior editor at Mediaweek.
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