CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The slogan for the new ACC Network is “We Do This.”
But area TV viewers might be wondering, “Will we be able to see this?”
The new channel, which is set to launch on Aug. 22, has lined up several TV providers. But it has yet to strike deals to be carried by Cox cable, Comcast cable, Spectrum cable or the Dish Network satellite service.
ACC commissioner John Swofford expects more companies to sign up before the debut, though.
“A lot of the distribution deals happen literally at the midnight hour,” Swofford said Wednesday after his news conference kicked off ACC football media days at a Charlotte hotel. “That’s just how, I’m told, a lot of this works with distribution. It often times goes to the last minute.”
The ESPN-owned channel already has deals to be carried by the DirectTV satellite service, the Hulu streaming service and Suddenlink cable, among others. ESPN has been handling the negotiations with companies.
“We’re very pleased with the deals that are done to this point,” Swofford said. “I don’t think there’s any question there will be more coming, and maybe even more right after the launch itself, before a game is played.”
But it might take as long as three years for some companies to agree to add the channel, Swofford warned.
A company might not want to add the ACC Network right now. But whenever a company’s overall “omnibus” deal to carry all Disney-owned channels (such as ESPN, ESPN2 and the Disney Channel) expires, Disney/ESPN can simply tell the company it must add the ACC Network as part of a new overall deal.
“It may be three years before … everybody that we would expect to have it will have it,” Swofford said. “And that’s because of when the omnibus deals are up. Some of them are up now. Some of them are up next year. Some of them are up the year after that.
“We want to get those people on board before their ominibus deals are up, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. And then when the omnibus deals come to a conclusion, that’s when ESPN has enormous leverage. And they get done [because] … ESPN may be saying … ‘If you don’t want this part of the package, sorry, you don’t get any of the package.’”
Three years is a long time for some fans to be without the ACC Network.
“They don’t have to be without it, though,” Swofford said. “Anybody can get it now if you just want to switch to DirecTV or get it through Hulu.”
Rosalyn Durant, ESPN’s senior vice president for college networks, said she expects more carriage deals to be announced in the coming weeks and months. But she said fans need to demand that their TV provider adds the ACC Network.
Swofford also hopes fans lobby their cable or satellite provider.
“I think our fan bases will respond very, very negatively if they are not able to get this,” Swofford said during his press conference. “I would encourage them to show that.
“Their voices need to be heard, and we count on them to demand that their carrier … take the ACC Network.”
The new channel will air plenty of football and basketball games, as well as other sports; documentaries; and studio shows. The channel’s first football game will be Georgia Tech at Clemson on Aug. 29.
Virginia’s first three football games will air on the new channel, as will two of Virginia Tech’s first three football games.
Is Swofford worried that the league has put a lot of games on the ACC Network before it has lined up all the distribution deals it needs for fans to see them?
“The games need to be scheduled because people need to understand and see the quality that’s going to be on the network,” Swofford said.
“So that’s certainly by design.”