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The ACC Network is a huge victory for the conference

Long before Keeping up with the Kardashians was ever a television show, an idiom existed in the English language: “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Using neighbors and friends as a benchmark was a classically American inclination in the second half of the 20th century.

The ACC is catching up to its neighbors.

The conference is set to finalize a television network deal with ESPN, perhaps as early as Thursday.

There are countless ramifications for both sides, but for Atlantic Coast Conference schools, it’s one of the biggest victories since the league was formed in 1953.

In recent years, the amount of money the SEC and Big Ten made eclipsed the other power conferences. It was one of the biggest reasons Maryland left for the Big Ten. The ACC Network is expected to close the financial gap with the SEC, which also has a television network deal with ESPN.

Millions more dollars to every athletic department in the league — from Florida to New England — would make this a victory by itself, but there’s much more to this agreement.

The ACC also agreed to an extension of its grant of rights through 2036, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy. That basically puts the kibosh on any potential conference realignment. If an ACC member decides to leave for another conference in the next 20 years, the school would have to surrender its media rights and revenue from all home games to the ACC.

There’s absolutely no way any of the 14 members can jeopardize that much of their revenue. Therefore, after years of conference uncertainty, this television deal practically guarantees none of the 14 schools in the ACC will leave for the next two decades.

There’s more.

In all likelihood, Notre Dame will never join a football conference. The Fighting Irish have their own television deal and are popular enough that they don’t need to hitch their wagon to a league. However, if for some reason the program decides it wants to belong to a conference — because of failures to make the College Football Playoff, or a desire for more financial security — the program has to join the ACC.

In the 2016 football season, Notre Dame will face five ACC schools, more than any other conference. The Fighting Irish also play their two long-time rivals from the Pac-12, Stanford and USC; one of their Big Ten rivals, Michigan State; Army, an independent school; and Navy of The American.

Furthermore, Notre Dame’s other sports are already in the ACC and have experienced a lot of success. Notre Dame basketball won the 2015 ACC Tournament and has advanced to the Elite Eight in back-to-back seasons.

Again, it still doesn’t seem likely, but Notre Dame’s inclusion into ACC football would be a major, major victory for the conference if it ever happened.

Even still, this should be seen as a major win for the ACC, and it comes at a very fragile time in television history. More than ever before, traditional cable is losing subscribers due to “cord-cutting.” Five years ago, sports were seen as immune to “cord-cutters” because experts guessed that fans wouldn’t want to time-shift live sporting events.

That hasn’t been the case. ESPN has lost an estimated 7 million subscribers, leading to billions of dollars lost in per-subscriber fees in the last three years. With this kind of loss, there was considerable uncertainty as to whether the ACC Network was a viable option for ESPN.

Apparently it is. For some unknown reason, ESPN is continuing to pay top dollar for sporting rights despite a shrinking audience.

At some point, a leveling-off point will emerge in these television deals. Luckily for the ACC, it will catch up to the SEC and Big Ten before it happens.

The ACC Network is a huge victory for the conference

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