With all the hoopla of a certain NBA star's public announcement of his choice of his new team, lost in the shuffle was the official announcement of the ACC signing a new rights deal with ESPN. Its a weighty deal since this is the 1st time that the ACC has hooked all its rights into a single deal. Previously the football deals were with ABC/ESPN for national coverage and Raycom for regional games, basketball was with Raycom (who would then re-sell games to ESPN, FSN and others) and most other sports were with FSN for either a national or regional level.
So what has changed, at least in the two major sports represented in the contract?
Not that it was an afterthought, but nothing really will change at the ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 level. The conference will still retain priority for a game on Labor Day, have games on Thursdays and still be regularly a part of ABC's Saturday slate of games.
At the regional level, things will change. ESPN decided that they sublicense their games to Raycom, who will manage the syndication business. Those games will be called the ACC Network. The syndicated games will now start at 12:30pm, like the SEC's games, and Raycom will be allowed to reach out to markets outside of the ACC territory to sell those games (this was not previously allowed).
Raycom will also be allowed to create a syndicated package of regional cable games and market those to regional networks. My guess is that any combination of regional networks run by FSN, Comcast or independent ones like NESN and MASN could get in on these games.
ESPN3.com will also be allowed to air games and it will be necessary to get cable operators like Time Warner on board to take full advantage. Another item that seemed interesting is that the door was left open to sublicense games to other networks. Maybe that is dependent on whether they can get ESPN3 to the masses. Who would be interested in sublicensed games? The usual suspects of FSN, Versus and Turner's networks. I don't believe they would sublicense games to another over-the-air partner.
Plenty of changes here now that ESPN is the rightsholder instead of Raycom. ESPN made a point of noting that there would be no more blackouts in ACC areas if a game aired on both Raycom and ESPN (appears that might only be the ACC tournament and one of the Duke-UNC games). They also noted that both Duke-UNC matchups would air on ESPN and that seems to take out CBS from airing one of the games every other year. Raycom will continue to be able to air one of the Duke-UNC games, but will not hold the exclusive rights in ACC areas.
At the moment, FSN is also out of the picture. The new deal notes that a package of Sunday night games would air on ESPNU. According to Commissioner John Swofford, the ACC games on Sundays on ESPNU will be earlier in the evening (see page 6), starting no later than 6pm. Like the football deal, ESPN left open the door to sublicense games to other national networks, so I think its likely that CBS and others could still pick up ACC games.
Much like the syndication part, Raycom will again manage it and they will be allowed two syndication packages (over-the-air and regional cable).
Like the deals the with the SEC and ESPN & CBS, the ACC will again recapture their copyright on material to do digital archiving and highlight packages.
Also the women's basketball package will be managed by Raycom and syndicated to regional cable stations. The entire tournament will now air on TV on a combination of Raycom syndication and ABC/ESPN/ESPN2.