An ACC Network is on the way, and this is no longer empty speculation: as first reported by the N&O's Luke DeCock, the league and ESPN have been ironing out the details of both a traditional television network and an online streaming service.
Additional details have since leaked: according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the ACC Network*** will debut by 2019. The league's streaming service is going live in August of this year, per Sports Business Journal's John Ourand, and will be available to all ESPN subscribers.
(***Quick clarification: we are not talking about the current iteration of the "network," which is merely branded production that appears on local television affiliates in the ACC region. The ACC Network will be a devoted 24-hour cable channel, assuming there is still television in 2019.)
The timing of this agreement is not coincidental. ACC football media days are coming later in the week, and commish John Swofford always has a "state of the union" sort of speech at the event. Now he's got a pretty big deal to talk about, and I'm sure he'll have more to offer about his negotiations with ESPN then.
"That's why ESPN is in the discussions with us," Swofford said. "They like to make money, too. And we like to make money, as well."
Remember that we're talking about amateur athletics here, kids.
You might roll your eyes at 2019 as the date for a network (I did the same), but this is a significant deal in ways that extend beyond that headlining item.
The ACC and ESPN have extended their media contract until 2036. The league's grant-of-rights deal also now runs through 2036. That essentially makes it impossible (or very financially painful) for any school to leave the league. And if Notre Dame opts to join a conference in football between now and then, it is contractually obligated to join the ACC.
We won't know the financial implications of this agreement for a while, but for now, the Swoff is coming out of this looking pretty good.