Dick Vitale may never broadcast a Final Four because ESPN was outbid for the TV rights to the NCAA tournament last month, but college basketball's most ubiquitous analyst will remain the voice of the North Carolina-Duke rivalry for years to come.
ESPN ensured that on Monday by staving off an unexpectedly strong challenge from Fox Sports Net to remain the primary TV carrier of ACC football and basketball, according to a report in the Triangle Business Journal.
What the new 12-year, $1.86 billion deal means to hoops fans is this: ESPN will likely continue to broadcast ACC basketball on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and will keep the rights to the ACC tournament and the highly-rated North Carolina-Duke and Duke-Maryland rivalry games. It's still unclear at this point whether FSN will continue its Sunday night basketball programming by purchasing those games from ESPN as it had under the previous contract.
From a financial standpoint, the strong pursuit from FSN helped drive up ESPN's rights fees to an average of $155 million a year, which averages out to $12.9 million per member school. That's well short of the $17 million a year SEC schools receive from that conference's landmark 2008 deal with CBS and ESPN, but it's also a huge increase over the $5.6 million a year that ACC schools were making under the previous contract.
Considering that the SEC negotiated its deal before the economy nosedived and that it's still a far stronger football conference, that seems like a fairly impressive deal for the ACC to have hammered out.
It's a win-win for everyone -- unless you've had enough of Dickie V's shameless Carolina-Duke promotion.
Then you might want to mute your TV until, oh, about 2022.