As Brooke Cain points out in a report for the News & Observer, the soon-to-launch ACC Network is, currently, on track to be unavailable to customers of Charter/Spectrum, AT&T U-verse, Comcast and DISH Network. The ACC Network is a partnership between ESPN and the ACC.
This isn’t exactly a new problem; issues with coverage and cable providers have existed for a while now. However, with the sports calendar set to flip to the 2019-20 season, those concerns could (or should) be heightened.
The ACC Network has an Aug. 22 launch, and Clemson and Georgia Tech set to play one another on the network a week later (Aug. 29). Time is of the essence. As of right now, there are no cable providers set to host the ACC Network.
— Brooke Cain (@brookecain) July 29, 2019
(Note: Spectrum is the largest cable provider in the state of North Carolina, which houses the ACC’s home office in Greensboro and four of its charter member programs.)
What’s in play?
Early this year in March, satellite television provider DirecTV (owned by AT&T) agreed to add the network and its content. Several streaming options such as PlayStation Vue, Verizon FIOS and Hulu Live TV (which is owned by Disney) will carry the network. However, Hulu Live TV costs more ($44.99 per month) than regular subscription to the service.
With cord-cutting becoming an increasingly large disruptor in the entertainment industry, streaming options are wildly important, too. And Cain notes in her piece: there’s currently no agreement for the ACC Network with other popular streaming services like Sling and YouTube TV.
Complicating matters further, there isn’t an over-the-top (OTT) option to stream the ACC Network for a monthly fee. And as of right now, consumers couldn’t access the ACC Network through the ESPN App — once it uses Spectrum to verify. (This, of course, could change.)
Basically if you have Cable, you're not getting the ACC Network.
Any streaming subscription (Hulu, YouTube, PlayStation) will have it, tho.
And, there's not an OTT option, so you can't just subscribe to the ACC Network (a la HBO) https://t.co/U6eZA3sGA6
— Joe Giglio (@jwgiglio) July 29, 2019
The Push for the ACC Network
Two weeks back at ACC Media Days, the network was a huge talking point. That came as no surprise. Several of the league’s football coach mentioned the importance of the ACC Network and what it means for the growth of the league. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney called it a “game-changer.”
ACC Commissioner John Swofford addressed it extensively in his de facto State of the ACC Union.
Speaking of @accnetwork, Swofford emphasizes that 15-member ACC offers footprint with greatest population & most TV sets among the major conferences. Such things will be very helpful as ACCN launches Aug 22 and beyond. pic.twitter.com/7P6jD9s8PG
— David Glenn Show (@DavidGlennShow) July 17, 2019
Swofford said the league and its partners are essentially on track; the league’s long-time leader expects the network’s distribution to function on a three-year cyle.
However, Swofford also predicted a negative pushback from ACC fans if the network isn’t available on their TV provider.
Swofford says they’re expecting the ACC Network’s distribution to be a three-year process as contracts expire/renew.
Says they’re expecting to be exactly where they thought or maybe a little ahead re: distribution next month.
— Brant Wilkerson-New (@BrantGNR) July 17, 2019
(This is just my own perception: ESPN has marketed the ACC Network for months now under the “We Do This” moniker. That launch campaign was the work of Austin-based creative agency Peacher. However, in recent weeks, advertisements promoting the ACC Network and the Clemson/Georgia Tech game have become far more pervasive. Ironically, these ads are going over cable providers that, as of right now, aren’t set to have the network on its launch date.)
Since the conclusion of ACC Kickoff, a social media blitz has unfolded, too. Verified Twitter accounts of several ACC athletic departments or teams have joined in on the messaging.
— BC Football 🏈 (@BCFootball) July 30, 2019
So far, Spectrum resorted to a boilerplate social media response to inquiries and concerns over the lack of the ACC Network on its platform; this includes a link to request the addition of a channel to the network’s lineup.
At this time we do not carry this network and do not have any information on if/when we will carry it. You can request this network and countless others via this link https://t.co/v6a7ZbEZjR. ^SS
— Ask Spectrum (@Ask_Spectrum) July 29, 2019
DISH Network has followed a similar pattern on social media. According to the company’s network team, its programming staff has been notified about a high demand for the network.
Hey, Alison! There haven't been any updates provided on this, but, we have let our Programming Team know the ACC Network is in high demand with many of our members. We're hopeful to get this added to our lineup before its launch in August. -JM
— DISH Answers (@dish_answers) July 29, 2019
It should be noted that these types of negotiations tend to get done closer to the actual launch date/deadlines. A lot could change over the course of the next three-four weeks.