ACC, ESPN partner for new conference channel

ESPN, ACC agree on 20-year deal, will launch ACC Network (1:50)

ACC commissioner John Swofford and ESPN president John Skipper share their thoughts on the benefits of the two sides partnering on a 20-year deal and rights extension to launch the ACC Network by August 2019. (1:50)

It was an annual tradition at the ACC's preseason kickoff event. Questions would be asked about the potential for a league TV network, and commissioner John Swofford would juke and dodge, providing few details.

This year, however, things were different.

"I don't have to do any dancing," Swofford joked from a stage loaded with ACC dignitaries and ESPN executives.

This time, he had an answer. The long-awaited ACC Network will launch by August 2019, with the Atlantic Coast Conference and ESPN agreeing to a 20-year deal and rights extension through the 2035-36 academic year in an announcement made Thursday.

The ACC also extended its conference rights deal nine years through 2035-36.

The conference's grant of rights makes it financially untenable for a school to leave, guaranteeing in the 20 years of the deal that a school's media rights, including revenue, for all home games would remain with the ACC regardless of the school's affiliation.

"The ACC is a great conference, and this increases the national exposure, brings in additional revenue and offers greater opportunity for student-athletes," Clemson president Jim Clements said. "For us and the Florida States and others, it stabilizes the conference long term."

The ACC's new grant of rights also automatically extends Notre Dame's contract with the conference as a member in all sports but football through 2035-36, a source said. If the Irish forgo football independence in the next 20 years, they will be contracted to join the ACC.

Swofford said Notre Dame was no closer to joining the conference for football, but "the phone lines are always open."

While the linear network will launch by 2019, the ACC Network's digital channel will start this fall and carry 600 live events. The linear network will broadcast more than 1,300 live events per year when it starts.

Swofford said the league will move to a 20-game league schedule in men's basketball by 2019, part of an effort to boost the amount of available content.

The ACC Network will increase the league's overall value. Swofford said the many agreements will put the ACC in "the upper echelon of Power 5 conferences" and secure the league's future over the next 20 years.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy and David M. Hale and The Associated Press contributed to this report.