ACC Network is coming in August, the latest partnership between a major college conference and a major network (in this case, ESPN.) Arguably the last one, too; the Big Ten and SEC already have their own networks, as does the Pac-12, although that’s a real “If your network has no major distribution deals, does it make a sound?” situation.
The Big 12, meanwhile, is hamstrung by Texas and their ongoing Longhorn Network ordeal. No other leagues offer enough major football programs to make it worthwhile to attempt a network launch, which means ACC Network, when it arrives, could be the last one we see for a while. With the risks of not securing distribution readily apparent, ESPN and the ACC have managed to snag an important partner ahead of launch: DirecTV.
That’s according to this report from John Ourand at Sports Business Daily:
DirecTV is the latest distributor that has decided to carry ACC Network at its Aug. 22 launch, a crucial deal for ESPN as it tries to convince the distribution community to carry the fledgling channel. ACC Net previously signed launch deals with Altice, Verizon and Hulu TV. ESPN will depend on Hulu’s and DirecTV’s national footprints as they negotiate with other distributors, including Comcast, Charter, Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse.
The men’s ACC Tournament starts today, and according to Ourand, ESPN plans to promote the impending network launch throughout, which makes sense. But the carriage side is still crucial, and DirecTV is a strong land for ESPN, months before the ACC Network has even launched. The conference is also gearing up for the launch, rearranging the football schedule to ensure some conference matchups on opening weekend, including Clemson-Georgia Tech as the flagship contest.
ACC Network’s success depends on ESPN’s ability to get the network into as many homes as possible, something they have a very strong track record of accomplishing. DirecTV is a big first hurdle, and having cleared it with five months to spare should give them time to iron out deals with plenty of other distributors. Somewhere, Larry Scott is probably slumped over in a very expensive office chair.