The ACC ended its spring meetings on Wednesday in Amelia Island, Fla., without announcing a new basic television contract to follow the various deals that will expire at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
Even so, the end game almost certainly will include a pact with ESPN to be the ACC's primary carrier.
The only other possible alternative is Fox Sports, which enjoyed much success with its Sunday ACC basketball package. However, Fox still doesn't quite have the financial muscle to outbid ESPN.
With its various platforms — ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, etc. — the cable company is capable of taking what it wants from the college buffet. Then there's the fact that since ESPN didn't land the NCAA basketball tournament rights, there should be extra incentive to strike, not to mention some unspent money left in the cash register.
There’s no indication that the ACC will be able to bag the kind of financial windfall that ESPN dropped on the Southeastern Conference ($2.25 billion over 15 years).
The ACC doesn't have that kind of football clout. But thanks primarily to Duke and North Carolina, the ACC basketball brand is still the most impressive in the business. And if ESPN is confident that two or three other league teams can at least reach the point of becoming reasonably consistent top-25 programs, basketball income will increase substantially.
The ACC's current TV deals with ESPN, ABC, Fox and Raycom bring in roughly $75 million annually. Even with its football problems, the league should make considerably more money.
Eventually, another income vein is likely to open if the ACC can find a partner — possibly the Big 12 — to form an all-sports TV outlet similar to the Big 10 Network.