ESPN is set to launch the new ACC Network Thursday, and they released more details about that launch this week. The network will go live at 7 p.m. Eastern, and its opening programming will include two hours of its news show All ACC, the new The Class That Saved Coach K documentary, a follow-up An Evening With The Class That Saved Coach K, and a launch edition of its football show The Huddle.
But what’s perhaps particularly notable is that the first 10 minutes of the ACC Network launch will be shown across several of ESPN’s other networks:
First 10 Minutes of ACC Network Launch Available Across Multiple ESPN Networks
Viewers can watch the ACC Network launch on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS beginning at 7 p.m., on August 22.
While ACC Network has been making some carriage inroads, most recently striking a deal with Charter, they still don’t have deals with many providers. Those include Comcast (an estimated 21 million households) and Dish (10 million). And while they could be in as many as 36 million homes by launch with just the deals announced so far, that’s still a fraction of the distribution of those other ESPN networks; Nielsen’s April coverage estimates put ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNNEWS, and ESPNU at 84.7, 84.5, 60.5 and 60.4 million homes respectively.
This launch simulcast is an interesting strategy, and one that could carry some benefits for ACCN. Breaking into those other ESPN channels’ programming to show ACCN’s launch should raise awareness of the new network, which is important for those who aren’t necessarily all that plugged in to sports media news. And cutting that off after 10 minutes allows those other channels to resume what they’re doing, and more importantly, encourages those interested in ACC Network to either flip to it or figure out if and how they can get it. It’s a good thing ESPN didn’t go full Megacast and put this on SEC Network and Longhorn Network, though; those fanbases probably don’t want to see everyone talking about how great the ACC is. And there’s still some backlash potential from those who are just watching ESPN and wind up wondering why everyone’s suddenly blabbing about the ACC.
The rest of the release about the ACCN launch is also notable, as they have a whole lot of special guests lined up for their first night on All ACC (which will be hosted by Kelsey Riggs, Jac Collinsworth, Jordan Cornette, and Dalen Cuff). Here’s their description of what’s planned for the All ACC opening:
Special guests: ACC Commissioner John Swofford, Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney, Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Heisman Trophy winner and former Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward, two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and former North Carolina women’s soccer great Kristine Lilly, Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw, former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and many more
A tour of the new Packer and Durham studio
ACCN personalities on location
Appearances from players and teams across the ACC
While football and men’s basketball are emphasized here, they’re also featuring Lilly and McGraw, and that feels like a reasonable move to show that this network’s about more than just the revenue sports. There will be plenty of football and men’s basketball coverage on opening night too, though, including the guests from those sports, that Coach K documentary, and a 30-minute edition of football show The Huddle at 11 p.m. Eastern.
So there’s a variety of programming, and while some of it certainly won’t appeal to all fans of ACC schools (many of those who don’t like Duke probably aren’t staying to watch a 90-minute documentary and a 30-minute post-show on Duke and Coach K, but those are logical content plays for a launch; they’re something that hopefully will get some Duke fans to tune in), the All ACC lineup in particular sounds like it may draw some conference-wide interest. And even those on providers not carrying ACCN will be able to watch—albeit only for the first 10 minutes.