ACC Network Set For Thursday Launch After Decade Of Prep
The ACC Network will officially launch Thursday at 7:00pm ET and is "expected to launch with at least 34 million subscribers," according to Bill Brink of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. While major distributors like Charter/Spectrum, DirecTV and Verizon Fios have carriage deals for the net, others like Comcast, Cox and Dish Network do not. Execs from both the ACC and ESPN "were confident that a deal with Comcast would materialize in the future." Both entities are focused on the future due to the "recent history of conference networks and the leverage of ESPN's omnibus agreements." Brink: "Basically, you can get it if you really want it, and sooner or later everyone will get it anyway." ACC Commissioner John Swofford said, "One of the real pluses of being with ESPN and Disney is, they do have the strong leverage in the marketplace, and particularly when their leverage is at the strongest is when their omnibus deals are up. We took that into account in terms of when the ACC Network would launch, as well as the projections that we have forecast" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/19). Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said, "We're already in more homes than we were online the first year of the Big Ten Network. We're in way more homes than the Pac-12 Network has today, and every (distribution) projection we've been given over the last three years has been hit on the nose" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 8/17).
WHY CARRIAGE ESCAPES ONE COMPANY: In Augusta, Will Cheney noted Atlantic Broadband is one of the distributors without a deal for ACC Network, and the company claims that the "problem lies with ESPN's requirements." Cable providers "cannot offer the network as a stand-alone channel or in a sports-tier package for customers that specifically want it." That means the cost for the net "must be passed along to every customer." Atlantic Broadband Head of Corporate Communications Andrew Walton: "The events that will be carried on ACCN previously were found on other channels already carried on the Atlantic Broadband lineup. These events have been removed from those existing channels in order to create a 'new' service, but at an additional cost to video providers and their customers." Cheney noted that is "contrary to what ESPN has done in the past" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 8/18).
GOING BEYOND THE CHANNEL GUIDE: In Virginia, David Teel detailed how ACC Network came into creation and noted Swofford and Wasserman Managing Exec of Properties Dean Jordan first "met in passing" during Jordan's time as the Hurricanes President & COO, but it was Jordan's "television expertise that Swofford needed." Swofford said he "very quietly" had Jordan "do a document" on network viability. Swofford: "Then I hired him as a consultant. It just grew naturally from that ... It was pretty obvious to me that Dean was very progressive in his thinking and really understood channels." He added, "(Jordan) brings a level of experience that we don't have anywhere else in our league. ... He's been superb." Teel notes the Swofford-Jordan "dynamic transcends business." The two have beach homes "close to one another, and when Jordan had a recent health scare, since resolved, Swofford marshaled the considerable medical resources the conference's schools offer." Jordan said of Swofford, "He's one of my all-time great friends. I put him in the category of just the special people in your life." Jordan added, "You shift from launch to management, and I've got a couple other things I'm helping the ACC with. So there's plenty to do. And this is a labor of love. Once you put this much time into it, you don't want to walk away from it, and fortunately there's going to be enough to do that I'll be able to keep my finger on the pulse of what's going on and help out where needed" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 8/17).