The ACC Network will debut next week, but it still remains to be seen just how many area TV viewers will be able to tune in.
The new channel, which is set to launch on Aug. 22, has struck deals with some cable, satellite and streaming companies. But it has yet to make deals to be carried by Comcast cable (Xfinity) or the Dish Network satellite service.
“Negotiations take time, and timing matters here,” ESPN senior vice president for college networks Rosalyn Durant said last Thursday on a teleconference. “We are confident that there will be other announcements in the very near future.”
The channel has a carriage agreement with Verizon FIOS as well as four national providers, including DirecTV satellite service.
Virginia’s first three football games will air on the new channel, as will two of Virginia Tech’s first three football games.
A source familiar with the Comcast negotiations said money is at issue. ESPN is charging providers an additional fee to carry the ACC Network.
Comcast vice president for corporate and financial communications John Demming said Comcast is reviewing ESPN’s proposal to carry the ACC Network. He would not give a timetable for Comcast to make a decision.
ACC Network games will be available on the ESPN App and on ESPN.com, but only to customers who already have the ACC Network.
ACC commissioner John Swofford said last month that he expected some companies to sign up “at the last minute,” just before the Aug. 22 launch. He said other companies might sign up before the channel’s first football telecast on Aug. 29.
But Swofford also warned last month that it might take as long as three years for some companies to agree to add the channel.
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 and the Disney Channel) expires, Disney/ESPN can tell the company it must add the ACC Network as part of a new overall deal.
ACC Network plans to air 450 live games during the 2019-20 school year, including 40 football games, 150 men’s and women’s basketball games and many other sports.
“The conference has been amazing with scheduling strong conference games early in the season to … make a statement around the type of quality you should expect on this network,” Durant said. “Regardless of where we are with distribution, you’re going to continue to see quality games on the network.”