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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With college football just around the corner, ESPN is set to launch the long-awaited ACC Network on Thursday.

Why it matters: Conference networks have become enormous moneymakers this decade, so the launch of ACCN will help the ACC close the financial gap with leagues like the SEC and Big Ten, who have surged ahead.

ACCN will go live at 7pm ET with a two-hour edition of "All-ACC," the channel's flagship studio show. After that, the network will debut its documentary film on Duke basketball's 1982 recruiting class: "The Class That Saved Coach K."

  • Next Thursday, No. 1 Clemson will host Georgia Tech as the network's first marquee live broadcast, and the Tigers will also be featured in a "Hard Knocks"-style show this season.

By the numbers (estimates per The Athletic):

  • SEC Network: ~59 million subscribers; ~$230 million in annual revenue
  • Big Ten Network: ~55 million subscribers, ~$160 million in annual revenue
  • Pac-12 Network: ~19 million subscribers, ~$40 million in annual revenue (fully owns and operates its network; no media partner ... which isn't working out so well)
  • ACC Network: TBD

The big picture: "Over a decade those numbers would mean more than $2.3 billion (after ESPN takes its half) in ... revenue for the SEC, more than $1.6 billion (after Fox takes its half) for the Big Ten, about $400 million for the Pac-12 ... and zero for the ACC (until now)," writes The Athletic's David Glenn (subscription).

  • The Big 12 is now the only Power Five league without its own stand-alone conference network — though it's nearly all-in with ESPN.

The bottom line: Campuses are opening their on-site production facilities, cable companies are scrambling with last-minute negotiations and the ACC's new era is officially underway. Now we wait for the football.

Go deeper

Trump political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Marine One carries President Trump away from the White House on Inauguration Day. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Donald and Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.