The ACC Network continues to grow its distribution. Following deals with Cox, Dish, Charter and more over the last month, ACC Network is now available on AT&T U-verse and AT&T TV Now (the former DirecTV Now). That comes after AT&T and ACC Network parent company Disney appeared to reach a larger carriage deal earlier this month to avert a potential blackout of various ABC and ESPN networks, although that deal still hasn’t been officially announced.
As per Jess Barnes of Cord Cutters News, ACC Network showed up on both the U-verse and AT&T TV Now channel lineups Wednesday, and it will now be available to stream for DirecTV customers as well (DirecTV previously carried the channel, but it wasn’t available for streaming). So that’s a significant boost for ACCN; as per the customer base estimates David Glenn of The Athletic shared in July, U-verse had 3-4 million subscribers then and AT&T TV Now had around one million. Plus, plenty of those U-verse homes are in the ACC’s footprint.
What does that mean for the overall ACC Network picture? Well, after the deal with Cox earlier this month, ACC Network had deals with providers that collectively covered around 52 million homes. That number’s now around 56-57 million, using those estimates. Of course, AT&T has been losing subscribers across all of its offerings, and they’re embroiled in a lawsuit claiming they created DirecTV Now accounts for customers without those customers’ knowledge, so their subscriber numbers may not be quite as strong as was estimated in July. But they’re still a significant addition.
Of course, the 56-57 million total doesn’t necessarily mean that ACC Network actually has that many subscribers. We don’t know the details of all the ACC Network deals, but it seems likely that not all of those companies’ subscribers will be on a tier that receives the network. So we can’t quite do an apples-to-apples comparison with the estimates Glenn relayed in July for the SEC Network (59 million) and the Big Ten Network (55 million), as those were estimates of those networks’ actual subscribers rather than just those who had providers that had deals with the networks. But it seems like ACCN may not be all that far behind those networks, and it probably has more than double the estimated 19 million subscribers the Pac-12 Network had then.
And ACC Network now has deals with 15 of the 16 providers listed in Glenn’s piece, with the lone holdout being Comcast. That’s a significant holdout, as Comcast’s estimated 21 million subscribers were the biggest in that table (with DirecTV’s 19 million close behind), but there’s now going to be further pressure on Comcast to make a deal. Disney doesn’t have as much leverage with them, though; this AT&T deal, and many of the other deals they’ve struck, came as part of wider carriage negotiations for Disney channels (including more prominent ones like ESPN and ABC), but their wider carriage deal with Comcast doesn’t expire until 2022.
Now, that deal was struck in 2012, and it didn’t prevent the sides from reaching a carriage deal for SEC Network in 2014 (months before launch, even). But that was a different carriage environment, and a different channel; Comcast hasn’t caved on this one even post-launch, and they won’t necessarily do so now. However, AT&T signing on means Comcast’s left largely alone as a non-carrier of the ACC Network (at least when it comes to big providers), and that isn’t an easy spot to be in.
This also speaks to the power that Disney can wield in carriage negotiations, especially when those involve the likes of ESPN. AT&T is a huge market force, especially after their acquisition of Time Warner, and they’ve been playing hardball with everyone recently; this year alone, they’ve had disputes with CBS and Nexstar (resolved), NFL Network and NFL RedZone (not resolved), and Sinclair (not resolved). Based on channel history and prominence alone, plus what games are actually on the channel, you’d think that NFL Network would be a more important channel to carry than a start-up like ACC Network. But the NFL owns NFLN itself, so it doesn’t have the luxury of threatening to withhold a channel AT&T actually wants like ESPN until they take one like ACCN. And that leverage appears to have proven very important for Disney here.