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Volume 26 No. 89
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Sources: Comcast, Cox, Dish Unlikely To Carry ACC Net At Launch

Sources said that it looks unlikely that Comcast, Cox and Dish Network will have deals in place by the ACC Network's Aug. 22 launch. Their affiliate deals for all Disney networks don't expire for several years, and it is unlikely they will cut a deal for ACC Net on a standalone basis. Sources said that Disney's deal with Cox ends in '20; the deal with Comcast ends at the end of '21; and a deal with Dish ends in '22. Comcast has a big presence in large parts of the Southeast -- like Miami and Atlanta -- then continues up the East Coast with markets like DC, Pittsburgh and Boston. Cox has a few smaller markets in the Southeast and suburban DC. While Charter/Spectrum does not have a deal right now, it's likely that it will have one by next month. Charter currently is negotiating a new deal with Disney, which is expected to include ACC Net (John Ourand, SBJ Media). ACC Commissioner John Swofford said that the conference is "just where it expects to be" ahead of the launch. He added that it is a "three-year progression plan for ACC Net, with milestones tied to when distributors have deals ending with Disney and ESPN." CABLEFAX DAILY's Sara Winegardner writes by "no means should the ACC be in any sort of panic mode at this point." Major distributors like Comcast were "reaching deals to carry the similarly-modeled SEC Network less than a month ahead" of its launch date in '14 (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/18).

NOT WORRIED: Swofford said he has "faith in ESPN" despite ACC Net launching without some major cable companies on board. He said, "Questions about distribution really should be answered by ESPN. What I will tell you is that we're very confident that ESPN are the best in the world when it comes to distribution" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/18). In Virginia, David Teel notes Swofford and an ACC delegation that also included Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock, Syracuse AD John Wildhack and Wasserman Managing Exec of Properties Dean Jordan traveled to ESPN's Bristol HQ recently for an "update on distribution prospects." Swofford said, "Football obviously drives a lot of this. But I think basketball will have a lot to do with driving distribution. I don't think there’s any question about that. That will become very evident during basketball season because there are going to be a lot of games on the ACC Network" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 7/18).

INCREASED OPTIONS: Swofford said the 24/7 aspect of the ACC Net "gives us much greater opportunity to tell stories about the individuals, the behind-the-scenes work that goes on, our athletes, historical nature of the league and the people before us that made the league what it is." Swofford: "The storytelling aspect of it is really special, and it will give us a much better opportunity to put our Olympic sports, and particularly women's sports, out there." Swofford said those sports have "not enjoyed the same kind of exposure as football and men's basketball and women's basketball." Swofford said the ACC in just getting to this point has "had to do some things as a league to put ourselves in a position where we were attractive enough to ESPN to partner on having our channel." That includes expanding the league because the ACC "didn't have a great population base in our footprint, therefore it didn't have the television sets in our footprint." Swofford: "Now we're a league that has the largest geographic population of any major conference and therefore more television sets than any other major conference" ("ACC Media Days," ESPNU, 7/18).

MAKING THE SWITCH: Former Miami football coach Mark Richt will be an ACC Net studio analyst working out of Bristol, and he said he considers this a "career change, not as a stop gap." In West Palm Beach, Tom D'Angelo wrote not to "expect flaming hot takes from Richt and for him to crush any coaches or programs in his new gig." Richt: "What the league wants and what the ACC Network wants is opinions. You don’t necessarily have to disagree. I don't think I'm going to sit there and say, 'I disagree with that decision.' I'm going to say, more than likely, 'Obviously that decision didn't work out very well.' And I think sometimes people need to know what goes into some of these decisions in the first place" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/18).